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Communication – a key issue for overseas trained medical professionals (IMGs)

Written by on May 31st, 2013.      0 comments

Communication issues and misunderstandings can often occur in the clinical medical situation and this was revealed in a recent patient survey conducted of general medical practices in Western Australia.   The study, conducted by researchers at the University of Western Australia, revealed that 76% of patients felt that there were communication barriers between themselves and their overseas trained doctor.

Communication issues arose in areas including, international medical graduates (IMG’s) communicating with older patients  and in addition, communication issues with women concerning women’s health matters.  The study also revealed significant gaps in communication between international medical graduates and their Australian trained colleagues.

Misunderstandings can easily occur between doctor and patient when doctors are not able to understand what their patients are saying and likewise, when patients are not able to fully understand their doctor.  Patients often use Australian slang and idioms when referring to personal health issues, which can make understanding more difficult for the doctor who is not familiar with Australian vernacular.

In addition, doctors who originate from overseas countries may have accents that impede the communication process. In this case, specialised communication courses for doctors or accent reduction training, can assist overseas trained doctors to reduce their accent and increase the effectiveness of their spoken communication with their patients.  By learning specific strategies that enhance listener comprehension, overseas trained doctors and international medical graduates, can learn to be more effective English speakers.   Learning about specific Australian vernacular commonly used by patients, can also aid doctors understanding and assist in developing rapport with patients.

Accent reduction training for overseas trained doctors, and international medical graduates can help to increase confidence, improve relationships with patients, improve communication channels between colleagues and therefore can contribute to the achievement of more successful outcomes for patients.