• Lilly Lichaa, M.S., SLP

Clear Pronunciation in the World of Medicine

Updated: Oct 29, 2019

By Lilly Lichaa

Healthcare professionals, now is the time to improve your American English pronunciation

Doctors, nurses, and all those providing services in the healthcare industry need to communicate with clear pronunciation. Whether you’re reporting statistics in the lab or giving instructions to a patient, clear and effective communication is vital. Accurate pronunciation relates to the world of medicine in important ways in areas ranging from research to patient care.


No Time to Waste on Communication Errors


Have you ever been asked for clarification by a colleague needing to know if you had said “13” or “30”? Such miscommunications can sometimes occur between healthcare professionals - whether it be between a native English speaker and an English learner or between two English learners who speak with different English accents. I have worked with many non-native English physicians who have learned British pronunciation where it is a phonetic rule to emphasize the "T" sound in the middle position of words and to drop the "R" sound at the end of a syllable. The result? The pronunciation of the number "thirty" by someone with a British English accent might be perceived as "thirteen" to someone accustomed to an American English accent. These small but significant differences in pronunciation and, therefore, being able to quickly understand the intended message, have implications in multicultural and multidisciplinary environments. If you have had such an experience, you may have noticed that taking time to clarify your intended message can serve as unnecessary frustration and can be important time lost.

"I experienced this issue in an interaction between myself, my mother, and a doctor recently. She had fallen down the stairs and he was asking how many steps she had fallen down. She said "eight". He said what sounded like "eighteen" or even "eighty". We went around in circles a bit with her saying 8 and him saying 18/80...." - Mary Pat O'Malley, Ireland

In the world of medicine, there is little room for errors or misunderstandings. Split-second decisions for patient care depend on clear and effective communication. Sharing lab results with patients, discussing diagnoses among colleagues, and implementing patient treatment plans are significant tasks requiring clear communication, especially with other speakers who may understand a different English accent.


Effective Pronunciation Between Colleagues


The importance of communication in the world of medicine is not limited to the physician-patient relationship. Not only is clear pronunciation in the clinic or hospital setting imperative, but it is an equally essential skill in such settings as medical congresses when presenting your research findings to your colleagues. Moreover, being understood the first time you speak is of the utmost importance. Have you ever listened to a conference speaker and found it difficult to understand his or her research findings due to his or her pronunciation? Was it simply because they spoke with a different English accent that you were not accustomed to? Perhaps it was the influence of their own native language impacting their English pronunciation that caused the message to be lost. Being clearly understood by your professional colleagues is paramount to maintaining professional authority, communicating important messages, and cultivating confidence between speakers.


Pronunciation Rules for Medical Professionals


At Prime Time Speech, we give you the resources and guidelines that are crucial for speaking with a clear American English accent so that you are understood the first time you speak. We use a program geared towards medical and health-related professionals. From learning the different word stress when saying numbers to practicing vocabulary specific to your area of expertise, we develop a program tailored to fit your unique needs. Be a confident English speaker as you continue your journey in the medical world. Whether you are a practicing physician, a medical student, or in a related field of science or healthcare, we are available to offer individual or group courses online at hours that are convenient for you. Contact us today for a free consultation.


Lilly Lichaa is an Accent Coach specialized in teaching the American English accent. She has a background in speech-language pathology. She can be reached at lilly@primetimespeech.com

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