Touchstone Institute is a centre of excellence for communicative competence. We facilitate interdisciplinary work with experts in linguistics, healthcare, education, immigration, and employment to increase general awareness of the importance of professional communication skills.
We work with regulators and internationally educated health professionals to foster fair and reliable registration practices through project work that explores the relationship between language proficiency and professional communication standards. We exceed industry standards to offer IEHPs a fair and relevant testing experience, while our competency-based language and communication frameworks, curricula, and programming provide the practical tools necessary to promote successful professional communication.
Why It Matters
Facilitating Safe and Effective Professional Practice
Language and communication skills play a critical role in the provision of safe and effective health services in a patient-centered model. In order for shared health goals and priorities to be determined, patients’ health concerns must be communicated and understood. Communication skills also enable practitioners to meet legal and ethical requirements related to documenting patient interviews, assessments, care plans, and treatment outcomes.
While healthcare professionals require the skills to navigate language and cultural barriers to communicate effectively with patients and colleagues, all professionals require strong communication skills in order to effectively fulfil workplace responsibilities.
A 360° View of Communicative Competence at Work
Project 360° leveraged existing knowledge in the realm of intercultural communication to create a framework that is applicable to Canadian and internationally trained professionals alike, as well as organizations seeking to create more inclusive workplaces.
Built from relevant theory, and compiled through broad-reaching consultations, the Communicative Competence at Work Framework has incorporated interdisciplinary perspectives from language and communication professionals, competency experts, employers, employees, HR professionals, and trainers.
As a framework for intercultural communication in the workplace, Communicative Competence at Work is an open-access resource providing strategies and approaches for effective and successful intercultural communication, designed for application to Ontario’s diverse workplaces.
Learn more about how to make communication work for you.
Communication through Simulation
Touchstone Institute is currently developing curriculum for formative communication programming designed to increase awareness and stimulate strategies for general workplace communication competence in Ontario’s health force. Our performance-based program content will reflect the critical skills needed for professional practice in Ontario’s health-care sector. Based on research, sound theoretical frameworks, and informed by practitioners, the communication simulations will emulate authentic workplace interactions, with dynamic, real-time feedback from trained and qualified facilitators and simulated clients.
Following a design-thinking methodology, this development project engages IEHPs, case managers, health-care educators, regulators, employers and simulation experts to inform and shape the program content and outcomes and ensure a program that is impactful at any point along the settlement – integration – retention process.
Not a language or clinical training program, or an eligibility assessment, Communication through Simulation was envisioned as a formative intervention for any point along the IEHP integration journey—as a component of licensure or bridging, preparation for simulated assessments, to determine readiness for clinical placements, or for the remediation of workplace communication challenges. In its intensive, modular structure, our program will facilitate transferable communication skills that are applicable to many different roles in support of quality care, patient safety and diversity in Ontario’s health force.
Communication for Regulated Health Professions
Rooted in an applied linguistics methodology, this research study sought to identify commonalities in communication competencies across regulated health care professions in Ontario. The objective was to develop a blueprint for the communication training and assessment of internationally educated health professionals (IEHPs).
The Communication for Regulated Health Professions (CRHP) Project began with a qualitative analysis of the communication competency descriptors for the 26 Health Regulatory Colleges in Ontario. As a follow up to this work, common competencies were grouped and a consolidated list of communication competencies was developed. Finally, a group of regulators and health care professionals participated in a focus group to review the competencies in reference to a communicative competence framework.
Findings indicate that it feasible to describe relevant communication competencies across health care professionals while connecting to broader theories of language and communication. In a following project, we will confirm this through a Delphi study as a component of our Sim Project, during which we will develop, pilot, and evaluate a performance-based communication competency training module for health professionals in Ontario.
Creating a Communicative Competence Centre of Excellence
The Ontario Centre of Excellence for Communication Competency Assessments (the OCECCA Project) is now embodied in the Touchstone Institute Communicative Competence Centre of Excellence. This innovative hub brings together occupation-specific subject matters experts, exam developers and researchers into a specialized hub for the development, administration and maintenance of occupation-specific language assessments.
While most language tests assess proficiency for general, English for specific-purpose assessments allow examinees to demonstrate language ability in targeted situations. Examinees who complete occupation-specific language assessments are more engaged in the testing process and feel that test preparation is worthwhile because it introduces occupational communication tasks. Learn more about our language and communication assessments:
Cultural barriers are often identified as impediments to integration, and communication is a facilitator for intercultural communication. In recognition of this, and in response to requests from the settlement community and employers, we worked to integrated intercultural communication competencies, Canadian workplace communication competencies, and linguistic competence into an intercultural Communication Competency Framework for Canada’s Workplace.
Our curiosity about how formative, diagnostic assessments can help individuals develop communication competencies, specifically for newcomers who are entering the Ontario health care workforce after practicing in another cultural environment. To this end we leveraged our in-house simulation expertise, and our contact with internationally educated health professionals in the design of a simulation-based communication program. Program content reflects the critical skills needed for professional practice in Ontario’s health care sector, and communication simulations emulate authentic workplace interactions. Dynamic, real-time feedback from trained and qualified facilitators and simulated clients make the learning experience fluid and realistic.