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Accent Reduction and Healthcare Workers

# accent reduction # English speaking strategies #accent #accent modification #english pronunciation #esl #improve English pronunciation #pronunciation #speech clarity


Healthcare workers, particularly nurses, are in high demand globally and represent a significant, multicultural workforce. At Change Your Accent Consulting, we are working with nurses to improve their communication skills in the workplace. The statistics about the importance of communicative competence for nurses, from diverse language backgrounds, is convincing. Nursing communication was judged as having the most influence on patient satisfaction as measured by The Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS 2012).  In another study the 2014 Joint Commission, identified communication errors as being the root cause of 744 out of 936 sentinel incidents (an unanticipated event in a healthcare setting which results in death or physical or psychological injury to a patient not directly related to their illness). Even more concerning is the Institute of Medicine (1999) study, “To Err is Human”, which recognized communication failure as being a key contributing factor to the sentinel events causing the death of almost 100,000 patients annually. Additionally, according to the American Association of Nursing (AACN), 26.3% of undergraduate nursing students come from a minority background. These statistics are alarming and demonstrate that effective communication is critical to the delivery of quality care focused on patient safety and satisfaction.

When communication has such an enormous impact on the safety and satisfaction of patients what is the responsibility of institutions? Hull (2016) postulates that “If patient safety is at risk due to accented speech then health care organizations have an obligation to provide the necessary education to correct the situation”. Accents impact nurses’ communication with their patients and families, their colleagues and during critical telephone conversations when there is an absence of visual cues to help. At Change Your Accent Consulting, our clients consistently tell us that difficulties being understood cause them to experience low self-confidence and feelings of inadequacy, and that they even go out of their way to avoid certain social interactions.

Culturally sensitive accent reduction training is essential to support healthcare workers and to empower them with strategies to successfully improve their communication skills for patient safety. It may also help to reduce the attrition rate of ESL nursing students in Canada which has been demonstrated to be higher than that of native English nursing students (Klish,2000) and which clearly has financial implications. Change Your Accent will be providing nurses at Holy Family Hospital in Vancouver, Canada with both online and group accent reduction training this winter and spring. We will be conducting pre-test and post-test intelligibility and self- perception assessments to quantify the efficacy of accent reduction training. Stay tuned for our results in spring 2018.

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