Pronunciation for Healthcare

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Why is it Critical for You or Your Staff?

Care Sounds Different in Different Languages

Sounding caring, courteous, and professional is easy in your first language. Conveying this in English will often sound quite different than in one's first language. If you use your first language patterns, your care and friendliness ratings will likely go down. Many exceptional physicians, nurses, and office staff are getting ratings of care and concern and friendliness and courtesy that are far lower than they intend. This can be true even if the professional has been practicing in the States for some time and is also true if the professional is from a country where English is one of the primary languages (such as India or the Philippines) but is still spoken with an accent. Studies indicate there are documented trends and real correlations between language skills and cultural competency and patient satisfaction scores.

Sound Determines Meaning More than the Words Themselves

It doesn’t matter how accurate their words are, according to Graham et al. (2001), when a speaker’s emotions emotional message is different than their literal message, the listener pays more attention to how it sounds. This was based off of a Milmoe et al. study in which thirty judges from Harvard-Radcliffe and MIT rated nine doctors as they counseled with alcoholic patients on scales of anger/irritation, sympathy/kindness, anxiety/nervousness and matter-of-factness/professionalism. They found that the overarching patterns of speech which convey emotion were much more important than the actual words they said in determining the behavior of their patients. In short, the age old statement that “It’s not what you said; it’s how you said it” is firmly grounded in fact.

Press Ganey Surveys Require it of Everyone

With such a high percentage of questions on the Press Ganey Surveys asking your patients to rate not only physicians, but also nurses and office staff based on friendliness and courtesy and on concern they showed, this subtlety of language and culture is vitally important to ratings, which can affect reimbursements and so much more.

Perceived as Less Truthful

According to a 2010 Journal of Experimental Social Psychology study, when listening to one of medical professionals with an accent, patients are also more likely to perceive them as less truthful than professionals without an accent. They are more likely to perceive accented speech as less truthful than to simply interpret them as more difficult to understand. This study showed this is true even when prejudice against foreigners could not play a role (the speaker was just playing the role of a messenger, passing along information from a native speaker). Of the accents studied, those with heavy accents from Asia, the Middle East and Europe performed worse, not being able to immediately make changes to improve their perceived credibility. 

While accent discrimination isn’t fair, as a healthcare professional or an organization, you can be proactive about avoiding it.

Pronunciation Training Improves Perception of Care

I’ve seen over 200 professionals primarily from Fortune 500 companies and the healthcare industry in the last 11 years turn things around for themselves and their organizations by committing to pronunciation training. These individuals are some of the best in the world at what they do, but specific aspects of their pronunciation caused not just their words to be misunderstood, but worse- their meanings, intentions, sincerity, personalities, and even character. They were consistently misunderstood and labeled by such descriptors as uncaring, apathetic, harsh, not passionate about what they do, insincere, unsure, cold, and deceitful.

You can easily see how, in the healthcare industry, all of these descriptors could easily lead to overall patient dissatisfaction, lack of compliance, undesirable changes in providers, increased unnecessary patient follow-up, and increased costs. But, by committed focus on taking on the American Accent, the professionals I worked with from all over the world were able to see significant positive changes in how they were perceived.

Expect results

Pronunciation for Healthcare leads to clear results with patients and with internal relationships with colleagues, bosses, and support staff:

  • More confident and competent-sounding medical advice delivery

  • Better patient compliance resulting in improved patient outcomes

  • Decreased unnecessary follow-up communications and visits

  • Increased patient perception of care and friendliness

  • Improved patient satisfaction

  • Better patient retention and loyalty

  • Healthier hand-offs between caregivers within your organization

  • Improved colleague perceptions of friendliness and respect

  • Better work culture, better reviews, better ratings, better Healthcare organization


Purposeful Pronunciation

Speaking clearly and being understood is about so much more than just the individual sounds. It's not about sounding exactly like a native speaker. It's about learning to use the sounds of a language to communicate who you are and what you mean- the first time. So much of your intention, attitude, meaning, personality and even character comes out in the pronunciation of English. We want to make sure you sound like yourself in every way.

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satisfyingly comprehensive

To be successful, you need coaching that is both thorough and targeted. We offer both. You get comprehensive training in each component of excellent pronunciation: intonation, stress & rhythm, connected speech, consonant sounds, and vowel sounds. Our unique diagrams, visuals, and expert coaching will help you master each component and learn to make them all work together for your success.

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purposefully contextualized

We don't just have you repeat endless lists of words and phrases unrelated to what you do. You will practice each component of pronunciation in the context of key healthcare language, such as building trust with colleagues under stress, effective openings and closings with patients, handling difficult patient questions, and boosting patient perception of care during transfers to other care team members. By using the skills in meaningful context, you will be prepared to use them right away at work.

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the secret sauce

Most restaurants have that tantalizing secret recipe you just can't get anywhere else. From years of targeted pronunciation coaching, I've learned the secret to success with pronunciation. It's not something you'll get from the average speech pathologist's pronunciation training- or just any degreed TESOL trainer either. Without this cultural component, you will either consciously or subconsciously stymie your success.