Investigating the language needs of international nurses: insiders’ perspectives

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Nurses are required to engage in a wide array of communicative activities, involving all four language skills, for a range of functions that are central to successful healthcare. Many of these are not addressed in the IELTS test papers.

Smith et al (2005) report a large number of complaints of clinical malpractice that are related to weak communication skills of international nurses. If these complaints were justified, they would call into question the current English language requirements for these nurses. To register for practice in the UK, international nurses must first acquire a minimum of 7.0 IELTS in all skill areas.
This paper reports on a project that investigated the extent to which existing IELTS English language requirements for internationally qualified nurses are appropriate and adequate for the contexts in which these nurses hope to work.

The approach was qualitative, with data gathered from interviews and focus groups. A rich picture of nurses’ daily communication emerged from the study. Nurses have to engage in a wide array of communicative activities, involving all four language skills, for a range of functions that are central to successful healthcare. 


Carole Sedgwick, Mark Garner and Isabel Vicente-Macia, University of Roehampton, UK


IELTS Test - Listening and Reading , IELTS Test - Speaking , IELTS Test - Writing , Impact and Washback - Predictive validity , Impact and Washback - Stakeholder attitudes , Impact and Washback - Use of test scores
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