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Building a child’s trust before a medical procedure: a linguistic case study

Depraetere, Ilse, Caet, Stephanie, Debulpaep, Sara, Ezzahid, Siham, Janke, Vikki (2023) Building a child’s trust before a medical procedure: a linguistic case study. Applied Linguistics, . Article Number amad080. ISSN 0142-6001. E-ISSN 1477-450X. (doi:10.1093/applin/amad080) (KAR id:103622)

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When a paediatrician establishes a trusting relationship with their patient, the chance of a positive outcome multiplies. A calm child, who participates fully in the communicative exchange is more receptive to the clinician’s requests and reports weaker sensations of pain. This experience stays with the child, shaping how they approach their health care as adults. Our qualitative case study unpacks the linguistic aspects of a 32-minute videoed and transcribed exchange between a paediatrician (co-author) and a five-year-old boy she is preparing for a risky procedure. It asks: what linguistic strategies reduce his anxiety? Non-pharmacological methods are key here, as deep sedation is problematic. Our study explains the communicative techniques that the paediatrician exploits. We identify how they function, and how seemingly dis-connected strategies group naturally under a few general principles. This is important for professional development because fewer overarching principles are easier to grasp and subsequently to deploy. Our inter-disciplinary approach, which relies on real data, can be replicated and expanded with health care professionals to enable them to act concretely on their language productions.

Item Type: Article
DOI/Identification number: 10.1093/applin/amad080
Uncontrolled keywords: child; paediatrician; communication; hospital; participation; trust
Subjects: P Language and Literature > P Philology. Linguistics
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Arts and Humanities > School of Culture and Languages
Funders: University of Kent (
Depositing User: Vikki Janke
Date Deposited: 31 Oct 2023 15:49 UTC
Last Modified: 16 Feb 2024 14:35 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

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