This paper reports on a qualitative study of journal entries written by students in six health professions participating in the Interprofessional Health Mentors program at the University of British Columbia, Canada. The study examined (1) what health professions students learn about professional language and communication when given the opportunity, in an interprofessional group with a patient or client, to explore the uses, meanings, and effects of common health care terms, and (2) how health professional students write about their experience of discussing common health care terms, and what this reveals about how students see their development of professional discourse and participation in a professional discourse community. Using qualitative thematic analysis to address the first question, the study found that discussion of these health care terms provoked learning and reflection on how words commonly used in one health profession can be understood quite differently in other health professions, as well as on how health professionals’ language choices may be perceived by patients and clients. Using discourse analysis to address the second question, the study further found that many of the students emphasized accuracy and certainty in language through clear definitions and intersubjective agreement. However, when prompted by the discussion they were willing to consider other functions and effects of language.
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The authors gratefully acknowledge funding of the Interprofessional Health Mentors Program by the UBC Teaching and Learning Enhancement Fund and the College of Health Disciplines.
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Ruitenberg, C.W., Towle, A. “How to do things with words” in health professions education. Adv in Health Sci Educ 20, 857–872 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10459-014-9568-7