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Posted on 12 Apr 2013 17:24

Further Defining Swales' Discourse Community Using Hospitals

Abstract

"This helps us look at the groups of people that people are apart of and analyze whether they act as a discourse community. There is though still debate on whether certain groups would fit all six or not."
"John Swales gave six characteristics of a discourse community. Hospitals not only meet these six criteria but also, since they are such a perfect example of a discourse community, there are aspects that in fact add to the definition of the meaning of discourse community."
"Conflict also shows a sense of comfort between the members of that group that they feel safe bringing up conflict. Comfort in a community is important so that people are themselves in the community, which allows them to be their best that they are in that group. This is why conflict is a necessity when it comes to defining a discourse community."
"Using the hospital example allowed me to demonstrate an example of an almost unarguable discourse community to expand on the definition of a discourse community."

Introduction

We have been discussing discourse communities for quite a while in class and each writer comes to offer a slight variation of what it is exactly. This obviously means that the definition of a discourse community in general is very much debated. I personally like Swales’ definition because of clarity in defining if certain people fit into a group he has six criteria, which are:
• Has a broadly agreed set of common public goals
• Has mechanisms of intercommunication among its members
• Uses its participatory mechanisms primarily to provide information and feedback
• Utilizes and hence possesses one or more genres in the communicative furtherance of its aims
• Has its own specific lexis (terminology, jargon)
• Has a threshold level of membership (not anybody can participate)
(Swales, 471-473)
This helps us look at the groups of people that people are apart of and analyze whether they act as a discourse community. There is though still debate on whether certain groups would fit all six or not. This is why I want to offer two new definitions added to this through an ideal example of a discourse community to help reduce the uncertainty of some of these criteria.

Discussion/Results

Swales’ Six criteria explained through the example of medical hospitals

My first time in a hospital was when I was 10 years old and I broke my foot. I did not think about at the time how well the whole system of a hospital works and what needs to go on for everything to work so well together. The people in a hospital must function well together and be able to communicate efficiently and effectively. This is why hospitals are such great examples of John Swale’s definition of a discourse community. John Swales gave six characteristics of a discourse community. Hospitals not only meet these six criteria but also, since they are such a perfect example of a discourse community, there are aspects that in fact add to the definition of the meaning of discourse community.

Common Goals

The first criterion given by Swales is that it has “a broadly agreed set of common public goals”(Swales, 471). The people in a hospital are meant to work together to help patients in whatever form that may be. This might include keeping a patient alive while going through a strong illness. It could be making sure a man in a coma or near death is comfortable, or it could be helping a kid with a broken leg and making sure that he healed in the best possible way. It is a very general goal which is good because it gives doctors and nurses reasons to go the extra mile for a patient if they so well please.

Intercommunication

The next part of Swales’ discourse community is that it should have “mechanisms of intercommunication among its members”(Swales, 471). In the world that is run by smartphones doctors still use pagers. As a doctor, it is not a good enough excuse to say that you didn’t get the call because you had no service. It could be a man’s life at risk and pagers, as old fashioned as they are, offer reliability that cellphones cannot at all times. This is especially important in hospitals where it is usually a building full of cement and thick walls that do not always allow for great cell reception (Mcnaught). The reason it is important to understand this is because not only do doctors have a source of intercommunication, they have one that is at an inconvenience to them but still use it to guarantee accessibility. There are also other forms of communication such as cellphones (which they do use just not as a primary), e-mail and all other types of communication that people use today.

How intercommunication is used

These forms of communication must also use “its participatory mechanism primarily to provide information and feedback”(Swales, 742). When it comes to the pagers this is an obvious task of communication from one personnel to another to inform the other of something that might have happened. For example, this could be a nurse telling a doctor that a patient is going into cardiac arrest or some other medical emergency that they are needed for. They could also be used to page a doctor and get a second opinion on a medical issue and is not necessarily an emergency. They could also use there other forms of communication like email to inform other staff of new policies within a hospital or to tell them about medical seminars.

Genres

An effective discourse community according to Swales also “utilizes and hence possesses one or more genres in the communicative furtherance of its aims”(Swales, 742). Hospitals have two main genres that are very important to the community. The first is the patient history form. When I walked into the hospital after breaking my foot the first thing my father did was fill out a form informing the hospital of who I was, why I was there and if there is anything that they should know about me before I was treated. An example of this chart is shown below. They are extremely important in making sure the medical personnel know what they are doing when they treat the patients and not accidentally giving them medication they knew they were allergic too. It also allows doctors to not keep referring to the patients since they might forget some information because they have a lot of patients (wiki.sdstate.edu).
The other document is known as SOAP notes. It allows the medical staff to quickly assess the issue of each patient while quickly putting in their own notes. It stands for Subjective (what the patients says is wrong), Objective (what the medical personnel notices about the patient’s condition), Assessment (what could possibly be wrong with the patient) and Plan (what the doctor plans on doing to treat the patient) (wiki.sdstate.edu).

Lexis

“In addition to owning genres, it has acquired some specific lexis”(Swales, 743). Doctors and nurses talk to each other in away that no one not in the medical community or have not studied the medical community understands. They have shorthand for words and treatments to allow efficient medical care. It is like its own language and they do not even need to think about it to use it. They are used on medical charts or during discussions between the staff. Some common medical abbreviations might be AML (acute myeloid leukemia) or HPI/ HoPI (history of the present illness) (translationdirectory.com).

Expertise

Without question it is possible to say that being part of the medical community “has a threshold level of member with a suitable degree of relevant content and discoursal expertise”(Swales, 743). Doctors go through a very rigorous process of pre-med in undergrad then taking the MCATs, then going to medical school and then going through a year of being an intern, which involves working in a hospital but is extremely rigorous. Nurses also go through a learning process. It is not as rigorous but still difficult and still involves a lot of work. To say that there is some form of threshold level would be an extreme understatement. Without this training it is not possible to practice medicine (education-portal.com).

Two new criteria

Passion

After proving without a doubt that hospitals fit Swales’ definition of a discourse community, I now want to offer two new criteria that help eliminate doubt on whether the community that is being studied is a discourse community (within Swales’ definition). Criteria ‘number seven’ would be that the people within the community need a passion for what they are doing. Doctors and nurses work crazy hours and in the beginning as an intern, they do not get paid a lot (besides the fact that they are still in huge debt usually from medical school). There has to be an incentive for them to be putting themselves through all this. The answer is passion. They have a passion to help people and a passion to work in the medical field. Without it, it is probably very hard to get through each day thinking why would someone put himself or herself through this? The answer has to be because they love doing it. Now this might seem like an extreme but really it should be able to be extrapolated to any discourse community. The question becomes why is this person apart of this group and why is he putting time into being a part of it? The answer is because he has a passion for it and wants to do it.

Conflict

Conflict is everywhere. Within groups or outside of groups there is always some sort of conflict. In a hospital there are all types of conflictions such as what type of medicine to use on a patient or very basic things like if a folder was filed or not. The reason conflict is so important within a community is because without it, people could just be part of a cult and following blindly. People need to be able to speak out against their group. Conflict also shows a sense of comfort between the members of that group that they feel safe bringing up conflict. Comfort in a community is important so that people are themselves in the community, which allows them to be their best that they are in that group. This is why conflict is a necessity when it comes to defining a discourse community.

Methodology

My research ended up being a lot easier then I thought it would be. I found out only after I started my research that medical communities are well known into fitting into Swales’ discourse community. This was disappointing since I thought I was being original and I was going to be able to prove that it was a true discourse community. The information about the doctors then came easily and I needed to think of something that would make my paper unique somehow. I decided to say that since medical communities are so well known as being such ideal communities it must be possible to expand on this example and find new definitions of a discourse community. I continued reading about the communities and trying to think of things that all these had in common. I came out with the two new criteria from this.

Conclusion

People do not think about how much truly goes into treating a patient at a hospital and all the little pieces that have to come together in order for everything to function properly. This whole process starts and ends with the discourse community of the medical staff in a hospital explained by Swales. Using the hospital example allowed me to demonstrate an example of an almost unarguable discourse community to expand on the definition of a discourse community. The two new criteria offered are necessary in order to narrow down the definition and remove arguments about what is considered a discourse community. Thinking about the original six criteria and the two new criteria really give a sense to a person what it truly means to be a part of a discourse community.

Images

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http://www.med-e-forms.com/SOAP_Notes_ScreenShot.jpg
SOAP_Notes_ScreenShot.jpg
http://www.nidcr.nih.gov/NR/rdonlyres/70EAAA74-5F86-4063-A805-985FE871C437/0/Fig082a.gif

Work Cited

“Becoming a Doctor” http://www.ucdmc.ucdavis.edu 6 April 2013

“List of medical Abbreviations” http://www.translationdirectory.com 6 April 2013

“Medical Quotations” http://www.doctorspage.net 6 April 2013

Swales, John “the concept of Discourse Community.” Genre Analysis: English in Academic and research settings. Boston, Cambridge UP, 1990. 21-31 print.

“The Analysis of a Medical Discourse community” http://wiki.sdstate.edu 6 April 2013.

“Why doctor’s pagers still trump smartphones” http://mobihealthnews.com 6 April 2013

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