Language and Clinical Communication

International Journal of Health Care Quality Assurance

ISSN: 0952-6862

Article publication date: 18 July 2008




(2008), "Language and Clinical Communication", International Journal of Health Care Quality Assurance, Vol. 21 No. 5.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Language and Clinical Communication

Article Type: Recent publications From: International Journal of Health Care Quality Assurance, Volume 21, Issue 5

Please note that, unless expressly stated, these are not reviews of titles given. They are descriptions of the books, based on information provided by the publishers.

John Skelton,Radcliffe Publishing,2008,ISBN-10 1 84619 125 4; ISBN-13 9781846191251

Keywords: Communication, Medical humanities development, Skills-based education

The search for a set of skills which can be identified and taught as “good clinical communication” has been of considerable value in persuading decision makers at medical schools and other bodies that communication matters. These days, very large numbers of medical schools use what are essentially skills-based models, such as the extraordinarily thorough Calgary-Cambridge approach. However, I believe that the emphasis on communication as simply a set of skills, such as eye contact, open questions and so on, has badly skewed the development of the discipline. The teaching of “communication skills” in fact strikes me as a very small part of what I do, not a very difficult part for the majority of students, and – whisper it – one which is often pretty dull …

In Language and Clinical Communication, John Skelton critically considers the theory behind this complex field. His wide-ranging approach reflects on the recent developments within the medical humanities and reflects on his controversial stance; questioning the relevance of skill-based teaching in the clinical arena in an accessible, easy to read manner. He shows how an understanding of linguistics can make better sense of medical communication and suggests ways forward for practice and research.

Readers will find the author’s light-hearted and open-minded attitude to the topic unquestionably illuminating.

This is a book about clinical communication and clinical education. It is a book, I’m tempted to say, in which problems are posed which are not so very unfamiliar. My point in undertaking it is to elucidate the issues from a different perspective, and in consequence to offer people ways of thinking and reflecting on them which may not have occurred (John Skelton, in the Introduction).

Contents include:

  • The ambiguous inheritance.

  • Rhetoric and the discourse community.

  • Two ways of looking at ambiguity.

  • An old debate.

  • Remediation and referrals.

  • The commissar and the connoisseur.

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