The well-structured medical communication models that are typically described in textbooks are relevant to practice, but the actual messy interactional realities of consultations are often a far cry away from them. As a result, medical trainees frequently encounter difficulties when applying communication skills acquired during training to medical practice. This paper reflects on how clinical communication research and courses can incorporate the growing need for context-bound communication skills training. This paper illustrates how concepts from the research field of language and social interaction can facilitate the description and analysis of communication in clinical encounters, drawing on a real-life example from an increasingly common clinical scenario: a consultation in the emergency department involving a patient who does not speak the same language as the clinician. The proposed way of looking at clinical communication can enrich clinical skills training as it provides a tool to study, analyze, visualize and discuss communication from a different perspective that simultaneously accounts for interactional and clinical reasoning aspects of medical consultations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)241-257
Number of pages17
JournalAdvances in Health Sciences Education
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2020

    Research areas

  • Clinical skills, Diversity, Immigration, Language and social interaction, Linguistic diversity, Medical communication

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