A good doctor with a "bad" accent?

Kevin, MD points out to an LA Times article (free registration required) which discusses the trouble some international medical graduates (IMGs) have getting understood by their patients:

"Although foreign-born physicians may have excellent medical training and comprehension of English, patients and co-workers can struggle to understand their speech and are often reluctant to call attention to the problem. This increases the potential for medical errors, Wilner says.

"People are frustrated when they get in this situation," she says. "Others, especially elderly patients, may be intimidated and not want to ask questions."

The comments on Kevin's blog are often very amusing, like this one by Gasman who claims to be a native English speaker:

"Sometimes it is the patient who is heavily accented. Some of these folks are n-th generation Americans but from places with dialect and accent that is quite a bit different from standard American English.

I speak perfect standard English, just like the guy on the news, so it must be the patient's that need to be changed."

Another commenter:

"I work for an HMO that's like the United Nations. I can't pronounce the names of many physicians when I book an appointment for a patient. I usually ask the patient how the doctor pronounces their name, they don't know how to."

Personally, I am not bothered by different accents, and as a patient, I would prefer to see a good doctor no matter what accent he/she has.

Video: "George (Adam Sandler) and Ira (Seth Rogen) make fun of a doctor's accent during an appointment." Courtesy of Universal Pictures. Link via Life in the Fast Lane.


Excuse me, could you repeat that? By Karen Blum, Baltimore Sun, July 24, 2006.
IMGs: Get used to it. Kevin, M.D., 09/2007.
Image source: Openclipart.org, public domain.

Related reading:

Difficult Sign Out. ER Stories - Shocking, Hilarious, Bizarre, and Sad Tales from the Emergency Room, 03/2008.
'Overseas doctors - particularly those from the Far East - speak incredibly fast. Daily Mail.
Where Do Doctors Learn Best? - NYTimes http://goo.gl/Qb5mm - The last letter will surprise many.
Who would you give the job to? Verbatim excerpts from the application letters of overseas doctors seeking a job in Australia. Life in the Fast Lane, 2011.
The One Dozen Most Important Things You May Not Have Known About American Medicine - A Guide for IMGs http://goo.gl/dY6hK
"Medicalese" Glossary - what is the meaning of brady, bronch, neb, soft admission, triple-A, lytes, de-sating?   http://goo.gl/SX83R


  1. That's no problem. I can just get my doctor to write down the instructions for me. As long as he is a good doctor, his accent won't bother me. A good doctor won't mind the patient asking questions to clarify things.

  2. Most people care about what the doctor offers. Not all doctors are equal. Remember, 50% of the doctors graduated at the bottom half of their class.