A genre-based approach in ESP classes to teaching clinical communication focusing on breaking bad news to patients

Discourse and Interaction 1 2024


Healthcare professionals have the responsibility to regularly convey difficult information such as unfavourable diagnoses, as well as adverse treatment outcomes. While this task can be uncomfortable, successfully carrying it out plays a crucial role in determining patient outcomes (Sweeney et al. 2011: 230). This necessity has led to the creation of evidence-based protocols such as SPIKES developed by Baile et al. (2000). The goal of the paper is to explore the suitability of the genre-based approach for the study and teaching of medical English, focusing on the integration of the selected clinical communication tool into the ESP classroom. As this study stems from the ESP practitioner’s experience and its outcomes will directly influence her future ESP classroom teaching, action research has been conducted. The feasibility of using an authentic clinical tool in an ESP lesson was assessed through a two-step methodology: i) devising an ESP task based on the SPIKES protocol, emphasizing linguistic elements, and ii) obtaining student feedback focusing on the perceived usefulness of the tool. Overall, the collected data indicate that students acknowledged the significance of effective clinical communication for successful therapeutic practice. However, given the fact that medical English is inconveniently scheduled in a pre-clinical phase of their curriculum, they also exhibited a certain level of hesitancy, unsurprisingly, when it came to readiness in handling serious communication scenarios.

medical English; medical oral genre; delivering bad news; clinical communication; action research; ESP lesson; student survey; mediation
Author biography

Veronika Dvořáčková

Masaryk University Language Centre, Faculty of Medicine, Czech Republic

Veronika Dvořáčková is Assistant Professor affiliated with Masaryk University Language Centre, specifically within the Faculty of Medicine Unit. Her research primarily focuses on exploring diverse facets of clinical communication within the context of English for Specific Purposes (ESP).

Address: Veronika Dvořáčková, Masaryk University Language Centre, Faculty of Medicine, Kamenice 5, 625 00 Brno, Czech Republic. [e-mail: veronika.dvorackova@med.muni.cz]


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