University of Antwerp (BELGIUM)
About this paper:
Appears in: EDULEARN16 Proceedings
Publication year: 2016
Pages: 672-681
ISBN: 978-84-608-8860-4
ISSN: 2340-1117
doi: 10.21125/edulearn.2016.1131
Conference name: 8th International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies
Dates: 4-6 July, 2016
Location: Barcelona, Spain
In a globalised world linguistic and intercultural challenges are part of professional life (Van de Poel et al. 2013). When different cultural and/or language backgrounds are at play misunderstandings between medical professionals and their patients and between medical professionals and their colleagues will adversely affect patient care and treatment and have professional consequences for the health caretakers (Watson et al. 2012; Hewett et al. 2009).

Most research on language-discordant medical communication has focused on language-discordant patients who communicate with or without the help of cultural mediators (e.g., Ferguson & Candib 2002; Hornberger et al. 1996; Hudelson 2005; Pöchhacker & Shlesinger 2005; Rudvin & Tomassini 2008; Schouten & Meeuwesen 2006). However, the linguistic and communicative needs of language-discordant medical professionals have recently received an increasing amount of academic attention (for an overview of the literature see, e.g., Van de Poel & Brunfaut 2010; Van de Poel & Gasiorek 2012; Van de Poel et al. 2013).

Healthcare professionals' communication skills are an important component of their professional identity, and are linked to perceptions of their competence as medical professionals (Gasiorek & Van de Poel 2012). It is therefore important to understand how they manage these conversations, as well as the basis for their evaluations of these interactions.

In order to fill this gap, this presentation will report on several 360-degree needs analyses (2007-2016), questionnaires with mobile doctors (n=134) and nurses (n=300) and interviews with their colleagues and heads (n=54) (n=100) as well as usability studies of the ensuing materials.

This presentation will adopt a critical approach on curriculum and syllabus design for healthcare professionals who experience communication gaps in their foundational education and training and constraints on on-the-job training resources, but at the same time it will show how to get professionals engaged with e-learning materials ( and raise their intercultural communication awareness.

From the needs analyses it emerged that language-specific (rather than general communication) skills training is most needed and should address communication about culturally-grounded (e.g., health and religious) beliefs (Gasiorek & Van de Poel, i.p). Qualitative analyses of self-reported descriptions of workplace incidents revealed two primary loci of linguistic problems: issues with vocabulary (i.e., doctors cannot find the word they need) and issues with comprehension (i.e., doctors are unable to understand what interlocutor is saying). By tracking the professionals' learning routes and routines guidelines for an effective e-learning approach were formulated. These insights have been used to inform the development of multifaceted e-learning materials for intercultural communication training, with the ultimate goal of improving the effectiveness of communication and care.

In sum, the Communication for Professionals (ComfroPro) e-materials embed intercultural strategies and tips in written and audio-recorded scenarios as well as real life video cases. By providing multiple learning routes and social network support ComforPro tries to enhance the professional's communication skills and defuse a number of challenges, including engaging in small talk, facing nonverbal communication, and observing cultural norms and expectations.
Medical communication, e-learning, online programs, needs analyses, intercultural communication.