Using linguistic analysis to explore medicine counter assistants' communication during consultations for nonprescription medicines

Mark Garner, Margaret C. Watson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)


OBJECTIVE: The purpose of this study was to undertake linguistic analysis of consultations between medicine counter assistants (MCAs) and customers for the supply of nonprescription medicines.
METHODS: The linguistic corpus comprised 168 recorded and transcribed consultations. Utterances were tagged as information eliciting, information or advice giving and other. The analysis focused on triads, beginning and ending with an MCA utterance (MCA(1)-->customer's response-->MCA(2)). The use of the mnemonic, WWHAM (Who for, What symptoms, How long, Any medicine tried, other Medication taken) was also analysed.
RESULTS: A total of 505 triads were identified. Of the 773 utterances, 61% were information eliciting, 13% were information giving, 14% were advice giving and 11% were "other" or unclassifiable. No consultation involved WWHAM in its entirety.
CONCLUSION: MCAs do not appear to have been made sufficiently aware of the ways in which their exchanges with customers during consultations for nonprescription medicines are crucially different from natural conversation.
PRACTICE IMPLICATIONS: In order to help customers decide upon an appropriate nonprescription medicine, the MCA has the role of both informing and advising. Training should focus on informing and advising as distinct functions, and the potential problems caused by combining them.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)51-57
Number of pages7
JournalPatient Education and Counseling
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2007


  • communication
  • community pharmacy services
  • counseling
  • data interpretation, statistical
  • decision making
  • drug interactions
  • health services needs and demand
  • helping behavior
  • humans
  • nonprescription drugs
  • patient education as topic
  • patient selection
  • pharmacists' aides
  • professional role
  • professional-patient relations
  • psycholinguistics
  • referral and consultation
  • Scotland
  • tape recording

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