Teaching current and future medical professionals to communicate clearly is a serious matter, often of life or death.
But teaching them to communicate in English doesn’t have to be so serious! Here are some fun, light-hearted ways to actively teach appropriate English for specific purposes content to medical professionals.
Consider These Fun Ways of Teaching English for Medical Professionals
Prepare papers with a human body drawn on it and put post-it notes or small sticky flags everywhere you have a vocabulary item. For example, for beginning learners, you could focus on the basics (head, left arm, right leg, fingers, etc...). Put students in pairs and have them take turns being the “surgeon.” Call out “Remove the sticky flag from the right arm” and have students take turns pulling off the tags. For each “operation” that they successfully complete, the student gets a point. If a student notices that their partner pulled off the wrong one, they should call out “emergency!” and they will get a bonus point.
For more advanced students, do a more centralized part of the body, for example, internal organs, muscles, or bones of the body.
Also, have students take turns calling out the body parts to be operated on to give them more practice with pronunciation.
What Illness Do I Have?
Nurses and doctors alike need to be very familiar with illnesses, their symptoms, and the accompanying treatments. Not only is the vocabulary significant, but the ways of addressing the patient, or “bedside manner,” is also important. For this activity, group the students into two teams (or for more individualized practice, put them in pairs). Before class, prepare little slips of paper that have illnesses or injuries listed on them. One student comes to the front of the room and draws out a slip of paper. They must then begin telling their team of doctors why they’ve come to the hospital and what symptoms they’re experiencing, or what happened to them to cause the injury. Just like the game Taboo, the patient cannot use the name of the illness or injury. The remaining students need to come up with an accurate diagnosis and treatment by calling it out. If the patient’s team gets the answer correct, their team gets one point. If their team misses either the diagnosis or the treatment, the other team gets a chance to answer. After you’ve done a bit of competition as a whole class, allow students to continue in pairs for more students to participate.
Giving Directions in a Building
Oftentimes, the most complicated part of visiting a hospital is knowing where to go. Your students are going to need to be able to give good directions in a building. To practice this activity, use the building your students are currently in. Have them wander around the building until they find a good location and have them leave a post-it note at that location with their name on it. Make sure no other students see where their note is posted! Next, have students come back to the classroom and pair up. The students must give each other verbal directions for how to find their post-it note. Pre-teach useful phrases like:
- Go right at the end of this hallway.
- Take the elevator to the seventh floor.
- Go past the nurses’ station and take a right.
- If you get lost, ask a nurse.
If you don’t have a building that’s conducive for giving directions, go online and print maps or floor plans of hospitals. You may need to alter them a little to put destinations or room numbers on them. Tell students to choose a location in their mind and then direct their partner from the starting point.
Your students will also need to learn valuable skills for interacting with patients in various ways, most notably scheduling appointments or handling concerns over the telephone. Role plays are great ways for creating dialogue and practicing vocabulary. If you have low level learners, consider practicing new vocabulary with a similar script as the one below.
- Nurse: Good afternoon. Thank you for calling Family Practice Center. How may I help you?
- Patient: Yes. I have an appointment next Wednesday, but I’m feeling really sick right now and I would like to come in today if possible.
- Nurse: Okay, what is your name and birthdate?
- Patient: My name is Joe Smith. 02/14/1985.
- Nurse: Thank you, Mr. Smith. And which doctor did you want to see?
- Patient: Dr. Taylor please.
- Nurse: Dr. Taylor, okay, one moment please. Alright, we have an opening today at 2:45. Would that work for you?
- Patient: Actually, my babysitter can’t get here until 3:00. Do you have anything after 3:30?
- Nurse: Hmm, it’s pretty busy today, but I think we can squeeze you in after 4:15. How does that work?
- Patient: That’s great. Thanks for helping me out.
- Nurse: No problem. Just remember to come 15 minutes early and bring your insurance card. Have a good day and feel better.
In order to do a successful role play, first you need to introduce the context of the situation and help students see how and when they would use this kind of dialogue. Then, pre-teach the vocabulary. As previously said, if your students need a little more structure at their level, go ahead and give them a script to practice reading aloud a few times or find a similar dialogue to give as listening practice first. When they’re ready, give them scenario cards that might look something like this:
You work for Family Practice Center
In order to schedule appointments, you need to ask for name and birthdate.
Today Dr. Johnson is available anytime before 11:00am.
Dr. Taylor only has two openings at 2:45 and at 4:15.
Your name is Joe Smith.
Your birthday is February 14, 1985.
You have an appointment next week.
You only like to see Dr. Taylor.
You are feeling sick and would like to see a doctor today.
Your babysitter can’t come until 3:00.
It’s a good idea to have your students practice this role play multiple times to feel comfortable using the vocabulary. Make sure you have students switch partners and roles so they can experience both sides. If this is too easy for your students, add more complicated vocabulary and information to the cards to make the situation more complex and challenge your students.
Medical professionals have a lot of knowledge to learn—on top of learning English! Help them practice both their field knowledge and their English in useful, practical ways.
Have you taught a class of medical professionals before?
What would you say is necessary for them to practice?