Objective—To characterize veterinarian-client communication with undisclosed standardized clients (USCs) during discussions regarding euthanasia of a pet.
Sample Population—32 companion animal veterinarians (16 males and 16 females) in southern Ontario.
Procedures—During 2 clinic visits, 2 cases (a geriatric dog with worsening arthritis and a cat with inappropriate urination) designed to stimulate discussion regarding euthanasia of a pet were presented by different USCs (individuals trained to consistently present a particular case to veterinarians without disclosing their identity). Discussions were audio recorded and analyzed by use of the measure of patient-centered communication (MPCC [a tool to assess and score physician communication behaviors]). Veterinarian and client statements were classified by means of 3 patient-centered components: exploring both the disease and the illness experience, understanding the whole person, and finding common ground.
Results—60 usable recorded discussions were obtained (31 veterinarians; 30 discussions/case). Overall, MPCC scores were significantly lower for the geriatric dog case. For both cases, veterinarians scored highest on finding common ground and lowest on exploring both the disease and the illness experience. Lack of exploration of client feelings, ideas, and expectations and the effect of the illness on the animal's function resulted in low scores among veterinarians.
Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—Results indicated that the use of USCs and the MPCC are feasible methods for analysis of veterinarian-client communication during companion animal euthanasia discussions. Findings suggested that some veterinarians do not fully explore client concerns or facilitate client involvement in euthanasia decision making.
To describe client and veterinarian perceptions of client-centeredness during euthanasia discussions and assess agreement between measures of these perceptions.
Stratified random sample of 32 companion animal veterinarians in southern Ontario.
2 case scenarios (a geriatric dog with worsening arthritis and a cat with inappropriate urination) designed to initiate euthanasia discussions were presented by 2 different undisclosed standardized clients (USCs) to study veterinarian communication during clinical visits. At the end of appointments, the USC's identity was disclosed, and questionnaires to measure veterinarian and client perceptions of client-centeredness were completed. Agreement was assessed by statistical methods.
Data were analyzed from 60 appointments (30/scenario). Of 10 questions, significant agreement was found between veterinarians and USCs for only 1 (extent to which relevant personal and family issues were discussed; κ = 0.43) for the dog scenario and 3 (extent of discussion of respective roles [κ = 0.43], better preparedness of the USC to make a euthanasia decision [κ = 0.42], and discussion of relevant personal and family issues [κ = 0.25]) for the cat scenario. When the USC and veterinarian disagreed, the veterinarian perceived that the client-centeredness components were addressed more thoroughly than did the USC.
CONCLUSIONS AND CLINICAL RELEVANCE
Lack of agreement was found between USC and veterinarian perceptions, with USCs perceiving less client-centeredness in euthanasia discussions. This communication gap suggested the need for training of veterinarians in eliciting client perspectives and assessing lifestyle-social information, including client social support systems.
To examine companion animal owners’ perceptions of appropriate veterinarian attire and investigate potential associations between a veterinarian's attire and clients’ ratings of trust in, confidence in, and comfort with a veterinarian.
449 pet owners.
Participants were randomly assigned to complete a questionnaire containing photos of a male or female model veterinarian photographed in 8 attire types (formal attire, white dress shirt with black pants, white casual shirt with khaki pants, surgical scrubs, white casual shirt with jeans, surgical scrub top with jeans, surgical scrub top with khaki pants, and white laboratory coat with khaki pants). Participants were asked to rate their trust in, confidence in, and comfort with the pictured individual on a response scale of 1 (low) to 7 (high), rank photos according to their preferences for attire, and provide input on the importance of attire and other appearance-related subjects. Attire and gender of photographed individual and participant demographics were investigated for associations with trust, confidence, and comfort scores.
Most (317/445 [71%]) respondents indicated veterinarians’ attire was important. Attire type was significantly associated with respondents’ trust, confidence, and comfort scores. Model veterinarian gender and participant education level were also associated with trust and comfort scores.
CONCLUSIONS AND CLINICAL RELEVANCE
Veterinarians’ attire is a form of nonverbal communication that is likely to inform clients’ first impressions and may influence clients’ trust in, confidence in, and comfort with a veterinarian. Veterinary personnel and veterinary management should consider how attire and general appearance represent staff members or their practice.