In an article published by The National Post yesterday, “From language troubles to the female body, foreign doctors training in Canada can face challenges: study” Tom Blackwell writes about the challenges that doctors completing their Canadian training can face when it comes to cultural differences. The article happens to feature what I believe is an extreme anecdotal example of a young male doctor, bursting into panicked tears at the thought of delivering a baby presumably because in his home country, only female doctors would carry this duty out. While that example is likely not the norm, (I’m assuming most doctors coming to Canada to practice have some knowledge about what might be expected of them) this topic falls right into my area of interest.
I’m a TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) student just one credit away from graduating my program. Other than time spent in a classroom, I have completed my practicum requirement as well as volunteer experience so I have at least a little bit of authority on the topic of professionals who are newcomers to this country and the unique struggles they face while making a new life for themselves.
So my response is to you, the commenter of this, and any other article like it. It is not an issue of incompetency, as many people seem to quick to type out, all in capitols nonetheless. In many cases, the lack of language, sociolinguistics, and pragmatics can be rectified very easily with classes offered to healthcare professionals to work on these very skills. Often these classes are required as well. It takes time to learn cultural norms, and I’m sure these doctors are willing to learn them. In any case, this article was about doctors in training, so all the people up in arms in the comment section about how these doctors shouldn’t be treating people; they aren’t yet. From what I understand from the article, they are currently training in Canada to learn things like healthcare pragmatics and other behavioural differences that are done while working in the Canadian healthcare system.
I also can’t help but think that the wild exaggerations from people in the comment sections writing in caps lock about how our “pc culture” will allow “misogyny” to occur (because being a raised in a culture where male doctors do not treat female patients obviously automatically makes you a misogynist*), or that healthcare professionals in training positions are so scared of being perceived as racist that they will not bother to correct inappropriate pragmatics, or of course the tried and true classic argument that “the immigrants are stealing all of our jobs”. Your grandparents are from where, exactly? I think you see my point. All these comments, even the ones which appear to be thoughtful all strike me as thinly veiled (or not veiled at all) xenophobia and racism when it really comes down to it.
This article did however, solidify something for me. When I graduate, I would very much like to seek out opportunities to work in ESP for healthcare. That is, English for Specific Purposes. I would like to help the doctors and nurses assimilate successfully into their chosen professional field instead of having to drive a cab because their English and/or cultural knowledge isn’t up to standards.
*That’s sarcasm in case you didn’t catch that.