International Doctors in Farm Country: An Intercultural Communication Challenge

U.S. medical professionals come from varying backgrounds, training, and in many cases from home countries outside of the United States. According to a study reported in
the Wall Street Journal, on September 9th of 2011,  around a quarter of all medical doctors in the United States are foreign born, with an even higher percentage in rural areas. With many born and raised Americans often encountering differences in regional culture, language, and cuisine in the United States, it is not surprising that foreign
doctors find it difficult to connect not just with their patients but also with their community.

Generally in the United States, after finishing medical school, location is a key factor that differentiates residencies and positions. Stiff competition for cities leaves many rural areas, mostly in the mid-west of the United States in need of health care
professionals. These positions are more readily filled by foreign doctors trying to find employment in the United States. But there may be a gap in cultural understanding that isn’t the best for communicating and connecting with one’s patients.

Hospitals such as Mercy Medical Center in Madison City, Iowa, have professors of social sciences design courses that educate incoming physicians from abroad about the people and the region they now serve. These courses take into account the major population demographics, sources of employment, and environment, and encourage doctors to experience local culture and traditions and engage in activities that are important to the area. For example, one course is titled “Topics for Small Talk with Iowans” covering sports such as football and hunting.

Communication can be a barrier that makes settling in a lot more challenging for foreign professionals than for domestic ones. Whether it be as a visiting professor, or a relocated manager it isn’t so much a language barrier as it is caring for the details
that can create a crucial difference.

Further Readings:

Wall Street Journal :
Learning to Speak Iowan: Corn, Pigs, Cyclones and Hawkeyes

Jordan, Miriam. “Learning to Speak Iowan: Corn, Pigs, Cyclones and Hawkeyes.”
Wall Street Journal 9 Sept. 2011, CCLVIII ed., sec. 59: 1+. Print.

CNN  Health: The Chart – Wanted: Fewer science nerds, more ‘culturally competent’ doctors

Post by: Madison Park – CNNhealth.com Writer/Producer

Professor Michael R. Czinkota  and Mariele Marki

16 thoughts on “International Doctors in Farm Country: An Intercultural Communication Challenge

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