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Qualitative study of the communication expectations of clients accessing oncology care at a tertiary referral center for dogs with life-limiting cancer

Debbie L. StoewenDepartment of Population Medicine, Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph, Guelph, ON N1G 2W1, Canada.

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Jason B. CoeDepartment of Population Medicine, Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph, Guelph, ON N1G 2W1, Canada.

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Clare MacMartinDepartment of Family Relations and Applied Nutrition, College of Social and Applied Human Sciences, University of Guelph, Guelph, ON N1G 2W1, Canada.

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Elizabeth A. StoneDepartment of Small Animal Surgery, Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph, Guelph, ON N1G 2W1, Canada.

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Catherine E. DeweyDepartment of Population Medicine, Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph, Guelph, ON N1G 2W1, Canada.

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Abstract

Objective—To describe the process aspects (communication) of the information expectations of clients accessing oncology care services at a tertiary referral center for dogs with life-limiting cancer.

Design—Qualitative analysis of data acquired during in-person single and dyadic interviews.

Sample—43 dog owners participating in 30 interviews.

Procedures—Independent in-person interviews were conducted with standardized open- and closed-ended questions from April to October 2009. Thematic analysis was performed on transcripts of the interview discussions.

Results—The participants expected information to be communicated in a forthright manner; in multiple formats; with understandable language; in an unrushed environment wherein staff took the time to listen, answer all questions, and repeat information when necessary; on a continuous basis, with 24-hour access to address questions or concerns; in a timely manner; with positivity; with compassion and empathy; with a nonjudgmental attitude; and through staff with whom they had established relationships.

Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—Results indicated that the manner in which information is communicated is vitally important to clients of dogs with life-limiting cancer in that it not only facilitates comprehension but also creates a humanistic environment from which clients derive the psychosocial support needed to successfully cope with their pet's condition.

Abstract

Objective—To describe the process aspects (communication) of the information expectations of clients accessing oncology care services at a tertiary referral center for dogs with life-limiting cancer.

Design—Qualitative analysis of data acquired during in-person single and dyadic interviews.

Sample—43 dog owners participating in 30 interviews.

Procedures—Independent in-person interviews were conducted with standardized open- and closed-ended questions from April to October 2009. Thematic analysis was performed on transcripts of the interview discussions.

Results—The participants expected information to be communicated in a forthright manner; in multiple formats; with understandable language; in an unrushed environment wherein staff took the time to listen, answer all questions, and repeat information when necessary; on a continuous basis, with 24-hour access to address questions or concerns; in a timely manner; with positivity; with compassion and empathy; with a nonjudgmental attitude; and through staff with whom they had established relationships.

Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—Results indicated that the manner in which information is communicated is vitally important to clients of dogs with life-limiting cancer in that it not only facilitates comprehension but also creates a humanistic environment from which clients derive the psychosocial support needed to successfully cope with their pet's condition.

Contributor Notes

Dr. Stoewen's present address is Pets Plus Us, Unit 2, 1115 N Service Rd W, Oakville, ON L6M 2V9, Canada.

This manuscript represents a portion of a thesis submitted by Dr. Stoewen to the University of Guelph Ontario Veterinary College as partial fulfillment of the requirements for a Doctor of Philosophy degree.

Supported by a grant from the Ontario Veterinary College Pet Trust Fund and a stipend from the Dean's Office of the Ontario Veterinary College.

Presented at the 7th International Conference on Communication in Veterinary Medicine, St Louis, November 2013.

Address correspondence to Dr. Stoewen (debbie.stoewen@petsplusus.com).