This paper discusses language use at a workplace in a context of instability and diversity. Its focus is on the operating theatre, where communication is an integral part of complex, collaborative tasks, impacting on patient-safety, staff well-being and overall quality of health care. In the operating theatre health care professionals gather to work on the recurring task of surgical operations, in teams that exist only for the duration or parts of the task. Not only do the members of these unstable teams have different professional backgrounds, such as surgery and nursing, they also draw on different, social, cultural and linguistic resources. The paper shows how this instability and diversity which is so characteristic of contemporary society plays out in the moment-by-moment use of language at the operating table. On the basis of prolonged fieldwork in a London hospital and a unique set of audio- and video-recordings we show how surgeons formulate requests and how nurses and surgical trainees disambiguate these requests on the basis of their prior experiences with surgical instruments and equipment, the surgical procedure, and, crucially, the surgeon’s ‘idiolect’. We analyze instances where this process of disambiguation is highly successful, as well as examples where it is not. We tease out the strategies that nurses and surgeons deploy to deal with this ambiguity and explore ways to deal with instability and diversity in professional communication.
Read the full article:: Bezemer, J., Cope., A., Kress, G. and Kneebone, R. (2011). “Do You Have Another Johan?” Negotiating Meaning in the Operating Theatre. Applied Linguistics Review 2, 313-334.