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Language skills – a critical component of patient care

Press Release – Occupational English Test


Language skills – a critical component of patient care
• A new whitepaper from Cambridge Boxhill Language Assessment (CBLA) highlights the increasing demand for better English language skills among healthcare professionals.

• Over 90% of HCPs in New Zealand who took the test in the last 12 months indicated nursing as their chosen profession.
Recent research has shown that effective communication in the healthcare sector is vital for patient outcomes, especially as numbers of skilled migrant healthcare professionals in New Zealand increase.

A whitepaper from Occupational English Test (OET) and Joint Commission International shows effective communication between healthcare providers and patients is essential for safe, quality care as poor or missing communication between providers and patients can lead to patient harm or even death.

Cambridge Boxhill Language Assessment’s OET specialises in testing communication skills specific for the healthcare sector, which OET Chief Executive Officer Sujata Stead says is critical to ensuring better outcomes for patients.

“The demands on communication skills of healthcare professionals is increasing and is linked directly to quality of care, patient satisfaction, likelihood of patient follow through and patient safety.

“Successful healthcare communication has unique requirements, including the ability to show empathy, cultural competence and situational awareness. OET is designed to test both clinical communication skills and language proficiency to ensure overseas healthcare workers are equipped to provide the highest quality healthcare to our patients.”

OET is one of the world’s only international health sector-specific English language assessments. Over 90% of healthcare professionals that have taken the test in New Zealand in the last 12 months were nursing candidates.

“Nurses have always been by far the biggest healthcare cohort taking OET to come to New Zealand and Australia,” said Ms Stead.

“It is encouraging to see the uptake of OET by those entering or increasing their qualifications in the nursing sector as this directly contributes to the upskilling of a critical workforce in New Zealand.”
Demand is rapidly increasing for healthcare professionals in New Zealand and the uptake of OET will be important to ensure our healthcare system operates safely and efficiently in coming years.

“As New Zealand’s population ages and the demand for health services grows, international recruitment will become increasingly important. The Government estimates that almost one in five New Zealanders will be over the age of 65 by 2036. This 77% increase is expected to put huge pressure on the current aged care sector. Effective communication and cultural awareness will become an increasingly crucial factor for recruiting healthcare workers in New Zealand,” says Ms Stead.

Professor Des Gorman, Associate Dean of Auckland University’s Faculty of Medicine, and Former Executive Chair of Health Workforce New Zealand, says OET helps skilled migrant healthcare workers in New Zealand provide culturally sensitive and patient-centric care.

“In past decades we’ve probably been able to rely on recruiting overseas candidates that we knew were high quality, and from similar nations – and for a number of reasons that’s disappeared. At the moment I believe OET is up there with the best-researched and most sensitive tools we have to maintain standards as we recruit from new places.”

OET is endorsed by Immigration NZ, Healthcare boards and councils and education facilities.


CEO Sujata Stead

Sujata is the CEO of Cambridge Boxhill Language Assessment (CBLA), the Melbourne-based organisation that develops and manages the Occupational English Test (OET).

Professor Tim McNamara

Professor Tim McNamara has taught Applied Linguistics at The University of Melbourne since 1987 and founded the Language Testing Research Centre in 1990 with Professor Alan Davies. His research focusses on performance assessment, validity, and the social and political meaning of language tests. He was also part of the team involved in the original development of IELTS.

Professor Des Gorman

Professor Des Gorman is the professor of medicine and Associate Dean in the University of Auckland’s faculty of medicine and health sciences and was the Head of the University’s School of Medicine from 2005-2010. He was the first graduate of the School to hold that position. Gorman led the Minister of Health’s Taskforce that reviewed the funding of the training of the New Zealand health workforce in 2009.

About Cambridge Boxhill Language Assessment

Cambridge Boxhill Language Assessment (CBLA) is the owner of the Occupational English Test (OET). CBLA is a joint venture between Cambridge Assessment English and Australia’s Box Hill Institute.

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