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Gender differences in veterinarian-client-patient communication in companion animal practice

Jane R. Shaw DVM, PhD1, Brenda N. Bonnett DVM, PhD2, Debra L. Roter DrPH3, Cindy L. Adams MSW, PhD4, and Susan Larson MS5
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  • 1 Department of Population Medicine, Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph, Guelph, ON N1G 2W1, Canada.
  • | 2 Department of Population Medicine, Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph, Guelph, ON N1G 2W1, Canada.
  • | 3 Department of Health, Behavior and Society, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD 21205.
  • | 4 Department of Population Medicine, Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph, Guelph, ON N1G 2W1, Canada.
  • | 5 Department of Health, Behavior and Society, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD 21205.

Abstract

Objective—To describe the relationship between veterinarian and client genders and veterinarian-client-patient communication.

Design—Cross-sectional descriptive study.

Sample—Random sample of 50 companion animal practitioners in southern Ontario and a convenience sample of 300 clients and their pets.

Procedures—For each practitioner, 6 clinical appointments were videotaped, and the resulting 300 videotapes were analyzed with the Roter interaction analysis system (RIAS). Linear regression was conducted to study the relationship between demographic factors, measures of veterinarian-client-patient communication, and gender of the veterinarian and client.

Results—Female veterinarians conducted more relationship-centered appointments, provided more positive and rapport-building statements, talked more to the patient, and were perceived as less hurried or rushed, compared with male veterinarians. Clients were more likely to provide lifestyle-social information to female veterinarians. Same-gender veterinarian-client interactions were relationship centered and included client provision of more lifestyle-social information.

Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—Gender influenced veterinarian-client-patient communication, and previously described physician gender differences in medical communication were largely replicated in the veterinary context.

Abstract

Objective—To describe the relationship between veterinarian and client genders and veterinarian-client-patient communication.

Design—Cross-sectional descriptive study.

Sample—Random sample of 50 companion animal practitioners in southern Ontario and a convenience sample of 300 clients and their pets.

Procedures—For each practitioner, 6 clinical appointments were videotaped, and the resulting 300 videotapes were analyzed with the Roter interaction analysis system (RIAS). Linear regression was conducted to study the relationship between demographic factors, measures of veterinarian-client-patient communication, and gender of the veterinarian and client.

Results—Female veterinarians conducted more relationship-centered appointments, provided more positive and rapport-building statements, talked more to the patient, and were perceived as less hurried or rushed, compared with male veterinarians. Clients were more likely to provide lifestyle-social information to female veterinarians. Same-gender veterinarian-client interactions were relationship centered and included client provision of more lifestyle-social information.

Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—Gender influenced veterinarian-client-patient communication, and previously described physician gender differences in medical communication were largely replicated in the veterinary context.

Contributor Notes

Dr. Shaw's present address is the Argus Institute, Department of Clinical Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO 80523.

Dr. Adams' present address is Department of Veterinary Clinical and Diagnostic Sciences, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, University of Calgary, Calgary, AB, T2N 4N1, Canada.

Supported by a grant from the Ontario Veterinary College Pet Trust Fund.

Presented at the International Conference on Communication in Healthcare, Chicago, October 2005, and the International Conference on Communication in Veterinary Medicine, Collingwood, ON, Canada, July 2005, and Washington, DC, July 2007.

The authors thank Anne Valliant for assistance with survey data entry, Jennifer Bedford for assistance with video technology, and William Sears for assistance with statistical analyses.

Address correspondence to Dr. Shaw (jane.shaw@colostate.edu.