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English for doctors: How to improve your medical English online

For doctors and medical professionals from around the world, the UK is an attractive destination due to the career opportunities and financial stability it offers.

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However, many overseas doctors and nurses lack the medical English needed to retrain and gain employment within the NHS. If you want to practise in the UK, you will likely be required to pass academic IELTS and PLAB examinations, so approaching a school that provides English for doctors could represent a worthwhile investment in your career.

English for doctors: IELTS and PLAB 1 & 2

In order to work as a doctor in the UK, most overseas med school graduates will be required to evidence their level of medical English by achieving 7.0 or higher across the four sections of the academic IELTS exam. While there are plenty of IELTS courses out there, it is worth looking into ways of specifically improving your medical English before you take any exams and apply for jobs in the UK. If you are short of time due to work or family commitments, then doing an English course for doctors online may be a more convenient option for you.

In addition to securing 7s in Academic IELTS, overseas doctors may be required to pass PLAB 1 & 2 examinations in order to gain limited registration and practise medicine in the UK. The aim of this test is to assess your ability to work safely as a Senior House Officer in a UK NHS hospital and requires a good level of medical English. PLAB 1 lasts 3 hours and contains 200 questions (extended matching and best answer) and PLAB 2 is a 14-station objective structured clinical exam that lasts approximately 1 hour and 40 minutes. Before taking PLAB you will need to ensure that your primary medical qualification (degree) is accepted in the UK by searching the World Health Organisation Directory of Medical Schools.

How to improve your medical English online

TRAINING: English for Specific Purposes (ESP) is a branch of English teaching that focuses on individual professions and the types of language they employ. When learning medical English it is important to work with a tutor who understands how English is used in your work place – preferably a teacher with NHS experience. Gaining one-to-one training and error correction is important if you want to speak English fluently and the internet offers a range of English courses for doctors that can be accessed via Skype at a time and place to suit you.

RESOURCES: There are plenty of websites offering English for doctors and study resources to help improve your knowledge of medical terminology, set expressions, hospital dialogues, etc. Here are 3 examples of useful online resources to improve your medical English:

  • Searchable online medical dictionary – Many medical terms originate from Latin and Greek so are similar across languages, but their pronunciation often varies and causes confusion. It is well worth consulting a dictionary such as this to make sure you get the pronunciation correct and understand all of the possible meanings of terms – both familiar and new.
  • British Council medical resources – A good example of a medical text with an audio sample to practise your work-related English on one of the UK’s most reputable education websites.
  • Youtube videos on medical English – There are plenty of videos on Youtube related to medicine, but it takes time to find useful material. The videos on this Youtube channel contain situational dialogues to help doctors practise their medical English online.

The financial rewards of practising medicine in the UK

If you are a medical professional, you will have heard of the NHS – the world’s largest and oldest single-payer healthcare system. This famous organisation employs over 150,000 doctors and more than 377,000 nurses (2014 statistics). Hospital consultants in the UK earn around £74,000-£100,000 per year and salaries for GPs range from £53,000 to £103,000 depending on whether they are partners in practices or employed by Primary Care Trusts. Fluent medical English is a must if you want to practise in the UK and enjoy the financial benefits of the profession. For this reason, taking an “English for Doctors” course should be seen as a worthwhile investment in your career and future life in the UK.


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