Facilitating Communication Between Patients and Their Foreign-Born Doctors
“It was an area with a lot of diversity and our daughter’s pediatrician was from Ethiopia, her neurologist was from Lebanon, and her cardiologist was from Syria,” says Graves. “It was so hard to build a relationship and have that trust because we just couldn’t understand them.”
Today, eleven years later, Graves has begun offering foreign accent reduction training to help international medical graduates who are new to the area communicate more effectively with their Midwestern patients.
“The three things we look at are intonation, pronunciation, and grammatical differences,” explains Graves who says foreign-born speakers may stress the wrong syllables, mispronounce or over-pronounce certain letters (such as the American “t”), or fail to use contractions. In the worst cases, these kinds of differences can lead to medical errors. But even when they don’t, communication differences may still widen the gulf between provider and patient.
“If you have patients who aren’t satisfied because they can’t understand their physician, that can impact your bottom line,” says Graves, who underwent a specialized program to become a preferred trainer in Foreign Accent Reduction. “Communication in a medical setting is critical for establishing rapport, obtaining medical releases, and just communicating about treatment and medication.”
Graves offers a 3-month program of weekly sessions and says a 40 to 60 percent accent reduction is possible.