Innovation in Language Learning

Edition 15

Accepted Abstracts

"Please try to stay calm, the doctor is coming" VOCAL-Medical: A Language and Cultural Tool for Staff in the Medical Sector

Kristin Brogan, ITT (Institute of Technology, Tralee) School of Business and Social Studies, Dept. of Humanities (Ireland)

Jef Adriaenssens, Thomas More University College, Turnhout, Dept. of Nursing & Midwifery (Belgium)

Helen Kelly, Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (Ireland)


The VOCAL-Medical project (Vocationally Oriented Culture and Language – Medical) is a two year Leonardo da Vinci Transfer of Innovation project, funded by the EU Commission, and part of the Lifelong Learning Programme. It follows on from two earlier EU projects, namely VOCAL ( and the award winning Problem-SOLVE. The VOCAL-Medical project partnership brings together 14 partner countries and 9 languages. This multilingual collaboration involves the designing of language and intercultural materials and the testing, piloting and reviewing of prototypes by professionals and patients in the emergency medical sector. The end product will be an on-line training tool for emergency staff who deal with patients who do not understand the local language. There will be also an app for mobile phones (smart phones) and tablets (with HTML5 functionalities) which can be used by the consultant in an emergency medical situation to assess the medical history and current complaint of the patient.

This project is directed at professionals in the medical sector who need to communicate with patients who are non-nationals in emergency situations where good communication skills can literally mean the difference between life and death. It responds to a growing need in the medical sector to overcome the language and intercultural barriers which are occurring with ever greater frequency as a result of demographic changes and increased mobility.

The project will provide language and culture training materials contextualised for the medical sector, through cooperation between educational institutions and professionals working in the field. Its target audiences are:

  • in hospital emergency services
  • ambulance services and fast rescue teams
  • GPs on standby/call duty (especially in urban areas)
  • hospital based doctors/specialists examining and diagnosing emergency patients.

The interactive on-line materials will be bilingual (in the language of the nine partner countries and English). Learning styles and autonomous learning environments are considered in the design, and authentic situations incorporated. Linguistic and cultural preparation is achieved by means of virtual journeys through a variety of scenarios.

The project will contribute to bridging the gap between different healthcare systems and different cultural behaviours inherent in the doctor-patient relationship. This has benefits for healthcare systems, for the professionals who work in them and for patients. Better doctor-patient communication means better health care outcomes in terms of survival, patient satisfaction and patient safety.

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