Communication in the hospital setting: A survey of medical and everyday language use amongst patients, nurses and doctors Academic Article uri icon

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abstract

  • Forty physicians, 40 student nurses, and 40 hospital patients were surveyed regarding their usage and evaluations of medical and everyday language use in the hospital setting. Medical language (ML) and everyday language (EL) were operationalized as distinct speech registers that doctors, nurses and patients can use in their encounters with each other. A complex interaction of speaker characteristics (bilingualism in ML and EL) motivational factors (accommodation theory), situational language norms in favor of communicative effectiveness, as well as status and power differentials that exist between health professionals and patients were hypothesized to influence language switching strategies in the health setting. While doctors reported using mostly ML with health professionals, they did report converging to the EL of their patients. However, patients and student nurses did not perceive doctors converging to the EL of their patient. Student nurses reported using an equal mixture of ML/EL with each other, while converging to the ML of the doctor and converging to the EL of their patients. The 'communication broker' role of the nurse was corroborated by perceptions of nurses' language use from all groups. Patients reported using mostly EL with each other while attempting to converge to the ML of the health professional. Nurses perceived these attempts to converge by the patients, but doctors did not report a change in the patients' register as a function of conversants. Regarding the evaluation of language use strategies, all groups felt that it was more appropriate for health professionals to converge to the EL of patients than to maintain ML. In conversations with health professionals, patient use of EL was seen as more appropriate than ML.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)

publication date

  • January 1989