Results of Medical English Questionnaire

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  a) Male: 243 (33%)
b) Female: 493 (67%)
Distribution of target group occupations:
a) Doctors: 184 (25%)
b) Nurses: 177 (24%)
c) Pharmacists: 103 (14%)

d) Students: 169 (23%)
e) Others: 103 (14%)
Age distribution:
a) 25 or less: 199 (27%)
b) From 26 to 35: 228 (31%)

c) From 36 to 50: 243 (33%)
d) Over 50: 66 (9%)
Gender Distribution
Doctors Nurses Pharmacists Students Others

Male: 98
Female: 86

Male: 28
Female: 148
Male: 28
Female: 72
Male: 61
Female: 110
Male: 28
Female: 77

1) Gender.

Approximately two thirds of the sample were women, which reflects the real percentage represented in the medical profession.

2) Occupations.

Doctors, Nurses and Students each represent approximately 25% of the sample, while Pharmacists and ‘Others ‘ together make up the remaining 25%.

3) Age

The sample age is predominantly in the 25 up to 50 years old rage. The sample of Over 50 years old is rather small. The percentage of women is larger in all target groups, except in the doctors group, where there are more males than females. The number of women nurses is especially large.
The ages ranges from 26 to 35, and 36 to 50 years old make up the majority for both males and females.


The results show that most groups have access to a computer, either at home or at work or in both places. This is particularly important in determining the possibility that professionals and students have to follow the course.
Doctors are the group with the highest percentage of computers at home (82.6%). But all percentages are high.


According to the surveys, we have observed that 46.2% of those asked are of the opinion that the correct use of English is very important for their profession. Only 3.8% consider it of no importance and 13.5% consider the use of this language not very important.

From the point of view of the different professions and those questioned individually, we can see that doctors are the group that predominantly consider it more important. 59.3% considering it very important and 36.4% consider it quite important, totalling 95.7% who consider it very or quite important. Followed by the students group totalling 45.1% and 25.7% respectively.

On the other hand, we have the group of nurses. This group gives less importance to the need for this course. Only 34.7% consider that it is very important and 31.8% consider it quite important. This is a significant result if we consider that their job puts them in constant contact with patients. This may mean that time is of the essence and that short, sharp lesson units are what is needed.

With reference to the level of English that the different groups interviewed profess to have, we can see that 25% declared an average level, 22% an elementary level, while only 14% consider that they have an advanced level of English. We can note that 22% of the answers were NS o NC (Do not know, not answering), which is a high percentage. With the results obtained from this question, we can see that there is a group of people who have a basic need to improve their English.

We must take into account that, on the whole, the doctor-patient and doctor-nurse relationship is based mainly on communication. For this reason an elementary level of English is not sufficient.


Most of those asked considered that their skill, when carrying out the proposed activities, is elementary to pre-intermediate.

We grouped the different activities we gave them into: listening, speaking and writing. The following results were obtained:

We can say that the activities they find easier are those related to listening comprehension, especially following oral instructions.

With reference to writing, where 1.00 is the maximum and 4.00 the minimum, the average was 2.00. A difference was noted between communication with friends and colleagues (2.80) and writing a medical report (3.33), Writing a medical report was considered the most difficult activity of those listed.

Finally, we can see that they find oral expression particularly difficult, everyday conversations being considered a little easier than professional conversations.

They were given two basic reasons to attend an English course:

1- to be able to communicate with other professionals and patients
2- to understand articles and participate in conferences.

The results showed that the nurses were the most interested in attending an English course to communicate with other professionals and patients (56.8%). Only 18.8% considered that the main reason was to understand articles and participate in conferences.

Doctors, however, were more interested in understanding articles and participating in conferences (41.3%), than in communicating with other professionals and patients (39.1%).

The student group showed more interest in communicating with other professionals and patients (42.7% ) in comparison with (26.3%) for the other option.


The first step was to find out if they would be interested in following a medical English course on the Internet. Doctors were the group most interested in this option, 26.1% of which were very interested and 37% quite interested.

Next highest are the ‘others’, whose percentages are quite close to the doctors’.

With reference to nurses and students, the levels of interest are quite close, around 54% of them considering the course very or quite interesting, which is an important percentage. It is important to note the high level of indecision that was registered, 14%, in comparison to 6% in doctors and others The latter seemed to have a clearer opinion of this need.

Pharmacists are the group less interested: 14% responded very interested and 33% quite interested, totalling 47%,. This was in contrast to 27% who were not very interested and 12% who were not interested at all.

The survey participants were also given a series of activities and asked to value their usefulness in the course. The participants considered Communicating effectively with the health staff as the most useful activity (70.9%). Very close was Comprehension of texts in English (68.1%). Followed by Communicating effectively in debates (66.6%), and finally Talking about work experience (61%). As can be seen, all three activities are highly valued, although preference is given to communication with colleagues.

They were also given a list of possible items to be included in the course programme and were asked their opinion about including multimedia in the course or not. Their answer was quite consistent. Highlighting description of symptoms as the most relevant situation (72.1%). Followed by other situations such as: explaining an emergency (68.5%), vocabulary (67.1%) or making a presentation (56.9%).

Less interest was shown in: writing a presentation (48%), writing a medical record (50.4%) and following conferences (56.1%).

We can see that there is a special interest in acquiring skills directly related to oral expression, especially in the workplace.

Studying the above answers by occupation, we can see that all the situations described are of interest the participants, to a greater or lesser degree depending on the profession. Thus, doctors are especially interested in learning skills related to giving/understanding medical opinions (84.2%) and describing symptoms (81%).

Nurses are especially interested in describing symptoms (68.2) or explaining emergencies (62.5%), both tasks of their profession.

Pharmacists are very interested in describing symptoms (73%), which is a constant activity in their profession.

We must be aware that, regardless of their profession, all are very interested in learning more about describing symptoms; Doctors 81%, nurses 68.2%, pharmacists 73% and students 75.4%. This is perhaps because it is most vital to all in the medical profession.

We can therefore conclude that each group will want to develop the language skills used in tasks which are carried out on a more frequent basis.


Analysing the support or didactic method to be used, the participants mainly preferred listening exercises (64%), followed by reading texts (60.5%), vocabulary exercises (56.8). The least popular methods were chats (27.6%) and the study of the differences in comparison to the native language (29.6%). This clearly shows the preference for a practical methodology of listening-reading, accompanied by the learning of vocabulary needed.

With reference to the length of the sessions, almost half (47.8%) preferred sessions lasting 30 to 60 minutes. The second most popular answer was sessions lasting even less time, not more than 30 minutes (25.8%). Only 10.3% preferred sessions of more than 60 minutes, doctors with an even smaller percentage (2.7%).

Studying the relationship between the different professions and the proposed duration of the sessions, we can see that the differences in this aspect are not very large. We must highlight the fact, however, that doctors and pharmacists seem more interested in short sessions. Around 80% prefer sessions between 0 and 30 minutes or between 30 and 60 minutes.

Regarding the option of more than 60-minute sessions, apart from this being the least popular, the percentage in the case of doctors is much lower than the rest (2.70%). This may be due to the fact that doctors’ hours are long and exhausting or because of the lack of free time.


The questionnaire was answered by people in 22 different countries and there was a wide range of Nationalities. Two methods of collecting the data were used.

1 - Personal interviewing by researchers in each of the partner countries
2 - On-line information gathered by a multi-language questionnaire linked to a central database.

All results were then collated in this one database to enable the research team to extract the information relevant to each individual country and a total picture for a collective result.

The figures given above are from that collective result.

A meeting of the whole partnership was held in Amiens in France in May 2002 and the results were fully discussed. A further analysis was also made taking into account the differences in each partner country.

Following these discussions, the partnership formulated its approach and delivery methods for the new on-line Medical English Course.

We wish to take this opportunity to thank everyone who participated in this survey which helped us to prepare material which will be relevant to the real needs expressed by the medical community.

David West

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