This series of blogs attempts to explain the clinical communication skill criteria and the strategy students need to follow to score 2 out of 3 on each criterion.
OET training is not just training English. Especially, regarding the OET speaking exam, students are expected to not only speak fluently but also to demonstrate their ability to handle the communication in an empathetic way. For this reason, the second clinical communication skill criteria are ‘Understanding and incorporating a patient’s perspective’.
The main reason most candidates fail to show this ability is culture. In most Asian countries, medical professionals are considered always superior to the patients, and the patients never question the reasons behind the advice and suggestions given by health professionals. However, due to the increased use of the internet, this situation is now changing. The patients are now aware of their condition and do some research on the internet before seeing their physicians. Thus, it has now become very important for the clinician to know what the patient thinks about it.
OET assesses the student’s ability to work with the patient in designing the goals and treatment plans. The patient’s involvement in the goal can improve the effectiveness of the therapy to a great extent.
There are 2 main stages of the consultations where the candidate can show their ability to address this criterion. The first opportunity is when collecting history and before finalizing the diagnosis.
For example, a patient may present to your clinic with headaches. Now, at this point, you as a clinician may look for a variety of reasons that may cause a headache. At this point, I always warn my students to recognize the fact that there is a huge difference between your perspective as a health professional and a layman’s perception. Majority of the common population is unaware of the anatomy and physiology of the human body. Thus, always keep this difference in mind when listening to the patient’s concerns. Do not judge them as a hypochondriac or over intelligent. So, the patient’s perceptions are built largely due to the previous experiences, or any of their family members who have suffered from a similar problem.
In the example we discussed above, there are 2 possible scenarios.
- The patient’s family member may have been diagnosed with a brain tumor recently. In that case, if you ask them
- What do you believe can be the reason for your headache?
- What is going on in your mind?
- In your opinion, what may have caused the headache?
You will be able to understand that even though there are no symptoms associated with cancer, the patient may be considering that as a possible diagnosis. Such revelation at an early stage actually helps you to get into the patient’s belief system and address any hidden fear they may have.
After understanding their point of view, it is equally important to incorporate it into your explanation.
- You mentioned that your aunt has a brain tumor and therefore, you are worried as it runs into the family. However, a brain tumor may also cause other symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, lack of sensation or tingling sensation. Now, fortunately, you don’t have any of those symptoms. Also, you have not lost any weight recently. All this reassures us that in your case, there is no possibility of cancer. A headache you are suffering from is more like ‘tension headache’.
- You may have actually found a brain tumor on the CT Scan of the patient and about to reveal that, but the patient may be considering the headache to be just a simple headache or a migraine.
In both the scenarios mentioned above, dealing with the patient’s belief system tactfully can help you establish trust in your relationship with the patient.
Similarly, the second stage where you can demonstrate this ability is while suggesting a treatment plan or strategy.
For example, you want the patient to exercise and lose weight. Instead of directly advising him to join the gym, it would be wise to ask what type of exercise they would prefer.
- Considering your high cholesterol level, I strongly recommend that, you do some sort of physical activity at least 30 minutes a day. This will help to normalize your cholesterol level.
- What do you usually do to burn your calories?
- Do you play any sports?
Now, if the patient likes football, it is a good idea to encourage him playing a match of football thrice a week, then making him do the boring workout at the gym.
This way, you ensure consistency and compliance for the long term.
So next time, before jumping to disclosing diagnosis or conclusion and suggesting a treatment plan do ask your clients about their belief and preferences to establish stronger connections.
This is a must to get B level in OET Speaking
Acumen- English for Healthcare Professional
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