The use of Vernacular English and Health Professional Terminology in Nursing Education

Author: Lindi Seaton

Seaton, Lindi, 2023 The use of Vernacular English and Health Professional Terminology in Nursing Education, Flinders University, College of Education, Psychology and Social Work

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As new students of Nursing adjust to the demands of self-directed learning and the academic language, an English as an additional language (EAL) student needs to navigate the additional load of the translation and comprehension of a second language. The language that students encounter may contain vernacular English (VE) and in Nursing, Health professional terminology (HPT), jargon and acronyms. In such circumstances, subsequent distraction and cognitive effort involved in seeking understanding of the lesson curbs a student’s ability to participate in the class progression and activities and poses a risk of disengagement from the class. Student participation in class and group activities is important for clarifying understanding and the construction of schema for memory and recall.

This study sought to establish whether VE and HPT were being used during educational sessions and if so, in what ways they were being used.

A qualitative grounded theory study was conducted, to learn how HPT and AVE were being used during first year classes in the Bachelor of Nursing at a South Australian University. First year topic coordinators provided 50-minute lectures and tutorials (five of each) as data that were transcribed and analysed using the NVivo20 program.

The findings indicated that some but not all academic staff use VE during their teaching. Much of the VE used was global rather than Australian Vernacular English (AVE) and may therefore have been familiar to EAL students due to previous exposure. However, idioms were used for various purposes during teaching, and many could not be translated literally, and therefore had the potential to divert a student’s attention from the class. HPT was used during the health focussed educational sessions. In some instances this was supported by an explanation from the educator, but in others the word/phrase was unsupported.

A study recommendation is that the use of HPT and VE during educational sessions should be explained during the class. An explanation of HPT and ambiguous language in the early stages of their nursing study could enable students to learn the language and still have the ability to follow the main focus of the teaching session.

Keywords: Vernacular English, Health Professional terminology, English additional language teaching

Subject: Education thesis

Thesis type: Masters
Completed: 2023
School: College of Education, Psychology and Social Work
Supervisor: Dr Mirella Wyra