The syllabus and the casualty ward
A 1974 study of ‘Doctor–Patient Communication Skills’
A 1974 study of 'Doctor-Patient Communication Skills', led by Christopher Candlin, can tell us about the intellectual background of studies of professional communication and the ways theoretical frameworks are adapted to the actualities of collaboration with a funder and day-to-day work in an institutional environment. The funder was a healthcare foundation, and the aim of the study was to develop a syllabus for teaching communication to doctors coming from overseas. The study involved observation of more than 200 consultations in a casualty ward. Findings were framed in terms of a set of functions and the possible transitions between these functions, and these would guide the kinds of linguistic actions to be taught. But within this narrow and now dated framework, the team also raised a number of wider questions that are still relevant today: the idea of the consultation as a unit, networks of medical professionals, the use of frames, attention to multimodality as 'transmediation' and the crucial role of time constraints.
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