Health care Finnish: developing and assessing Finnish proficiency among health care professionals

The research project focuses on how the language education and language proficiency assessment of health care professionals with tertiary qualifications can be developed. The main focus is on professional language proficiency issues of health care professionals who have obtained their qualifications outside the EU/EEA countries and have applied for professional authorisation in Finland.

The topic is timely as defining the level of language proficiency that is required for employment in the health care sector and for ensuring patient safety is under wide discussions in many European countries including Finland. The Ministry for Education and Culture published a working group memo Kielitaidon ja EU/ETA-maiden ulkopuolella hankitun osaamisen täydentäminen terveysalalla -työryhmän muistio [Evaluating language proficiency and complementing language proficiency and qualifications obtained in a non-EU/EEA country in the health care sector (summary in English)] on 5. February 2014.

The research project will start by investigating health care professionals’ language education and language assessment practices in other countries (e.g. Nordic countries) and comparing them with practices in Finland. Central outcomes of relevant international research will be compiled and their relevance in developing current practices will be evaluated. Results of available needs analyses on language skills in the health care sector will be compiled and some additional needs analysis will also be conducted.

The second stage of the project will analyze the National Certificates of Language Proficiency test results (NCLP levels 3−4 ~ CEFR levels B1−B2) and participant background information as they refer to the language proficiency and registration of health care professionals. For this purpose some test performances are selected for closer qualitative analysis. Results of this analysis will contribute to the design of an assessment experiment.

The experiment of professional language proficiency assessment will be conducted with reference to the National Certificates of Language Proficiency. The experiment will provide information on, for instance, how a performance based language assessment could complement the language proficiency profile of an individual and how a module of professional language proficiency could be included in demonstrating adequate healthcare qualifications and in education or recruitment processes. This part of the project (executed in 2015) contains development work.

Finnish Ministry of Education and Culture has granted the project funding for two years (2014−2015)

The current research project continues work started in the project Finnish as a Work Language (2011−2013) (Suomi työkielenä. Sosiokognitiivinen näkökulma maahanmuuttajien ammatilliseen kielitaitoon). It is undertaken as a cooperation project between the Department of Languages and the Centre for Applied Language Studies (CALS) at the University of Jyväskylä.

Research team:

Postdoctoral researcher Marja Seilonen, PhD (Department of Languages, 18 months)
Research Coordinator Tiina Lammervo, PhD (CALS, National Certificates of Language Proficiency, 3 months, on leave)

Researcher Marita Härmälä (CALS, National Certificates of Language Proficiency, 3 months (substituting Lammervo 10/2014-8/2015)

Project Director, Minna Suni, PhD, Docent (Department of Languages)


Steering group:

Professor Ari Huhta, Professor Tarja Nikula and Professor Sari Pöyhönen from the Centre for Applied Language Studies, University of Jyväskylä.