Bridging the Language gap
It also can frustrate physician recruiters. Richard Glehand, executive
director of E.G. Todd Associates in New York, says hospitals are
looking for good communicators. “The name of the game in
physician recruiting is to bring on doctors who can put patients
in the hospital. If patients can't understand the doctor, they
have a tendency not to go to that doctor," Glehand said.
"Almost 90% of hospitals are recruiting doctors, and in rural
and semi-rural communities the needs are significant," Glehand
added. "We are underpopulated for doctors, and accent reduction
could open up a new market for hospitals to recruit foreign doctors
with acceptable language skills."
In hospitals that have a large number of physicians with heavy
accents, communication between doctors and nurses can become strained.
Karen Campbell, a speech-language pathologist and owner of American
Accent Training, in Redondo Beach, Calif., contracts her firm's
services to a variety of institutions. At one medical facility,
language problems led to anger between the two groups, and she
was called in to improve accents, quickly.
Campbell also works with foreign-born medical students at the University
of California, Los Angeles and the University of Southern California.
Those students must be prepared to compete in the marketplace,
"Nowadays, we can physician shop. If somebody doesn't give
a patient a warm, fuzzy feeling, that patient will move on to the
SPEECH THERAPISTS offer individual and small-group training in
special intensive workshops followed by three weeks of structured
practice. Prices for accent-reduction training range from about
$700 to $1,000.
Therapists choose from a variety of methods, including one - the
STEP program (speech training in English pronunciation) - that
includes practice with words from the client's profession. Physicians,
for example, would go over common diagnoses and medications. Other
approaches to accent reduction focus more on the rhythm and intonation
of English. Many therapists use an eclectic approach, focusing
on pronunciation, grammar, and vocabulary in accordance with a
client's individual needs.
Therapists choose from a variety
of methods, one of which includes practice with words from the
(The American Speech-Language-Hearing Assn. Operates a toll-free
telephone number – (800) 638-TALK – that provides referrals
to speech-language pathologists in a caller’s area.)
Learning the sounds and intonations of English is equally difficult,
therapists say, no matter what the client’s country of origin.
Much depends on an individual’s language skills. “Some
people have an ear for accents, some don’t,” said Bader.
Without practice, no accent-reduction training can be effective.
Dr. Shahideh made himself practice about 45 minutes a day. Sometime,
he played a practice tape in his car.
“The complication with physicians is that they have quite
tight schedules, and they have difficulty working this type of
practice into their otherwise busy schedules,” said Phyllis
Taylor, associate director of the Institute of Language and Phonology
in San Francisco, a clinic which also trains speech-language pathologists
in techniques of accent reduction.
Speech therapists have observed increased confidence and a more
relaxed attitude among physicians who have reduced their accents.
Campbell recalls one client: “You’d see him smiling
much more because the fear of communication was gone. Another whole
side of him came out. Because he could deal more effectively with
people, he wasn't as angry all the time.”
When people learn to speak accent free, the sounds of their native
language remain with them. “What I'm doing is expanding the
capacity of these individuals,” said Taylor.
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