No matter your specialty, as a medical professional, your foremost concern should always be the tongue. It is the tongue – and the language that is generated by it – that allows health providers to communicate with patients and medical colleagues, speak at seminars and medical meetings, and – ultimately – how to read and write medical papers.
Though patients – and their mother tongues – come in all different shapes and sizes, more and more it is English that is on the tips of the tongues of patients around the world. That is because even though in today’s increasingly globalized world a doctor’s patients may speak many different languages, the special status that English enjoys as the 21st Century’s lingua franca means that it is increasingly called upon to unite doctor and patient in examining rooms around the world. After all, in addition to the 500 million people worldwide who speak English natively, a billion more – or altogether a quarter of the world’s population – speak it as a second language. Thus the role of English in medicine cannot be overstated. So whether you are working in an English-speaking country or even in your own home country, there will come a time when you will need to rely on English to communicate.
All this, then, explains why it is important to learn medical English. In so doing, medical professionals of all types – general practice physicians, specialists, nurses, pharmacists, paramedics, and even medical volunteers – will be better able to meet the needs of their patients, be better equipped to console the loved ones of their patients, and be better prepared to communicate with other medical professionals who speak English. Given the obvious advantages, it is easier to understand why you should learn medical English than it is to understand exactly how. Fortunately, a growing number of English language programs are offered throughout the English-speaking world to meet the needs of aspiring medical professionals.
Be forewarned, however: such medical English courses are not like normal intensive English programs. As specialized programs, designed to foster the ability to communicate in English in a hospital or clinical setting, students should already have mastery of general (conversational) English at an intermediate or advanced level and be ready to add to their working knowledge of the language. In much the same way, because the focus is on language and not science, students should have an understanding of anatomy, of physiology, and indeed of their medical concentration in general in their native language. Students will be best able to learn medical English by using a strong foundation in both conversational English and medical science as a springboard for success.
Though courses may vary depending on the provider, when it comes time to choose a medical English course, there are certain things to look for. A quality program, for example, will help international students come to terms with the intricacies of medical terminology in areas as diverse as history-taking, trauma care, and treatment procedures. In addition to a focus on industry-specific vocabulary, effective programs should highlight commonly used grammatical structures used in the field of medicine and help candidates master the kinds of medical idioms that are at the heart of doctor-to-doctor and doctor-to-patient interaction. Finally, with an eye on advancement, comprehensive programs may even provide modules that explain the inner workings of the U.S. healthcare system and contribute to the growth of medical writing skills.
If you're looking for more information about studying English for use in medical situations, the following blog articles may prove useful: