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Virginia J Allum

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Developing authentic materials for English for Medical Purposes classes
by Virginia J Allum   
Rated "G" by the Author.
Last edited: Thursday, June 07, 2012
Posted: Thursday, June 07, 2012

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Teachers who do not have experience teaching English to doctors and nurses can often feel daunted by the task ahead. There are many helpful websites with authentic materials on them which make lesson planning a little easier.


Let’s start by using ‘Wound Care’ as an example. You can use any other medical or nursing procedure in its place.
Aims of the lesson are to:
present the specialised language needed to talk about wounds. Tip: look at wound websites which often give advice to professionals on the use of the dressings. 
review prefixes and suffixes used to describe the skin, blood vessels (vascular) and blood
recycle general English  e.g asking for information, giving advice, assessing pain, giving directions
use maths terms e.g dimensions of wound, amount of discharge
The lesson should prepare dialogues which students can role play in the class-room and later at home. A word about role plays - They are serious enough for ESP! They are the perfect opportunity to use specialised language in authentic situations as they can be used for handovers , telephone calls and conversations with colleagues.
Students can write their own role plays and then feel that they ‘own’ them. Think about bringing in guest speakers e.g real nurses or doctors to confirm the authenticity of the role plays,
Talking about Wound Care gives an opportunity for:
Verbal descriptions e.g. in handover
Written descriptions e.g. Wound Chart
Abbreviations and medical terminology
Description of Equipment e.g Dressings
Practice of Documentation: Care pathways
a review of staff who work in Wound Care e.g Infection Control Nurse,  Tissue Viability Nurse
What can you say about wounds? Make this a ‘Before you start….’ section. Brainstorm the following areas to see how much students already know about the topic. 
1. Types of wounds - surgical, ulcers, lacerations
2. Position on body - on the right ankle
3. Description   - order of adjectives
4. Colour  - of the surrounding skin, wound discharge
5. Size  - width and depth
6. Amount of exudate  - small, moderate, copious
As you can see, there are some good practice areas for students which will be useful for other areas, for example
Position :  use of prepositions
Description: order of adjectives
Size : use of mathematical terms
For extended practice, put your class into 6 groups and allocate one of the 6 areas to each group. Get students to make flashcards or an activity (e.g. adjective order activity) so the whole class can build up their knowledge of the terms. Reassure students that the vocabulary used to talk about Wound Care is extensive and will be learned gradually.
Other areas of Wound Care which can be covered with advanced classes are:
Presence and type of wound drains 
Specialised Wound Care Equipment e.g VAC Dressings
Equipment used to do a dressings e.g surgical tape, bandages
Types of skin closures: sutures, clips, staples and Steristrips
Everyday terms  versus medical term (healing v granulating )
Parts of the Body
Use diagrams or photos of the body for students to talk about where wounds are situated. Practise:
Terminology (body position – anterior, posterior etc) – on the back of.. 
Parts of the body e.g where pressure ulcers may occur -  on her sacrum
Everyday terms versus medical terminology - shoulder blade  – scapula 
Using authentic diagrams
If you can get hold of authentic charts or documents from your local hospital or online, use them for students to complete for a pretended wound. For example, a man was bitten by a dog and has a wound here     It’s a cut (what is the medical term? = laceration) . He has left it for a couple of days and there is now pus in it (purulent=pussy). It’s painful all the time.
An example of a scenario for students to use. Students read the scenario, complete a wound care chart and then write a dialogue of a handover. During the handover they will hand over the information about the patient to the next shift.
Mr D Hatworth was repairing his fence when he accidentally dropped a piece of wood which grazed his right lower leg. He left the wound untreated for two weeks apart from dabbing on a bit of antiseptic cream. Now, the wound is painful to touch and is red and inflamed. There is a small amount of blood-stained discharge

Web Site: Tips for Teaching Medical Terminology

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