Towards improved quality of written patient records: language proficiency standards for non-native English speaking health professionals

Project Details

Strong written communication skills among overseas trained doctors and nurses are critical to the quality of patient records and safe patient care. In Australia, these skills are assessed using the Occupational English Test (OET), administered by the OET Centre, our partner organisation. This study will research the writing practices in hospitals, identify doctors’ and nurses’ criteria to evaluate effective records, and apply these criteria to the OET to set more profession-oriented passing standards on the OET written assessment. This will be achieved by bringing together a multi-disciplinary team including applied linguists, clinical educators, the OET Centre, and three partner hospitals.

The project will contribute to the quality and safety of healthcare in the Australian community by improving the written communication skills of the increasing number of non-native English speaking health professionals working in Australia. The project will achieve this by: (1) making visible the writing practices valued by doctors and nurses that contribute to effective patient records and (2) setting more relevant, profession-oriented minimum English standards for migrant health professionals with the Occupational English Test (OET), administered on behalf of government and professional registration bodies by our industry partner, the OET Centre.


Professor Robyn Woodward-Kron

Associate Professor Eleanor Flynn


Professor Tim McNamara

Associate Professor Ute Knoch

Associate Professor Cathie Elder

Professor Elizabeth Manias,  Deakin University

Dr Barbara Zhang, Occupational English Test

Simon Davidson, PhD student

Sharon Yahalom, PhD student


2014-2016 Australian Research Council (ARC) Linkage Grant: Towards improved quality of written patient records: language proficiency standards for nonnative speaking health professionals (3yrs). McNamara, Knoch, Woodward-Kron, Elder, Manias, Flynn, Zhang. $242,380,LP130100171.

Research Outcomes

Knoch U, McNamara T, Woodward-Kron R, Elder C, Manias E, Flynn E, Zhang B. Towards improved language assessment of written health professional communication: the case of the Occupational English Test. Papers in Language Testing and Assessment. 2015. 4(2).

Research Group

Healthcare Communication

Key Contact

For further information about this research, please contact the research group leader.

Department / Centre

Medical Education

MDHS Research library
Explore by researcher, school, project or topic.