Communication in veterinary practice

30 August 2021 – News

Communication in veterinary practice

There has been an increasing interest in the role of communication in veterinary clinical practice, particularly regarding the ways to deliver difficult news to clients, the role of communication skills in the veterinary education curriculum and the application of client centered communication approach within the veterinarian–client relationship.

This integrated analysis included 48 studies and aimed to clarify the reported characteristics and the major findings on veterinary communication.

The studies were grouped in three categories: client–veterinarian communication; cross-disciplinary communication in a professional veterinary team and training of veterinary communication skills.

The client–veterinarian communication was the most recurring theme. Several studies revealed constraints of insufficient consultation time (24 minutes on average), which prompts some clients to search for further veterinary information online. Trust in a client–veterinarian relationship is crucial: it enhances the quality of history taking and allows a better clinical diagnosis and subsequent treatment care. One way to develop trust is sharing personal experiences and inform all possible options. Nonverbal communication is important too, not only to improve history taking but also to deliver a message to the client effectively. The tremendous pressure that veterinarians face while delivering bad news may also be alleviated by teaching useful communication skills in the veterinary curriculum.

Additionally, veterinary practice requires teamwork, however limited the time for communication is. The lack of structure and problematic interactions are unfortunately common, leading to possible miscommunication and clinical errors. Conflict-resolving strategies, such as setting regular meetings and providing feedback that promotes self-reflection, may be useful.

All the studies have emphasized the importance of communication skills but training in this matter was shown to be very limited. In fact, one study reported that only half of the participants received this kind of knowledge in veterinary schools and a lot of them had to attend post-graduate communication training workshops.

PUN, J.K.H. An integrated review of the role of communication in veterinary clinical practice. BMC Vet Res 16, 394 (2020).