To describe how North American veterinary medical teaching institutions (VMTIs) provide communication skills training to students.
Faculty coordinators of communication skills training programs (CSTPs) at 30 North American VMTIs.
An online survey instrument was designed and administered to each respondent followed by a telephone (n = 28) or in-person (2) interview. The survey and interview process were designed to evaluate all aspects of CSTPs, such as communication framework used, program format, number of student-contact hours, staffing models, outcome assessment, faculty background, program priorities, and challenges. Descriptive results were generated, and guidelines for future development of CSTPs were recommended.
27 US and 3 Canadian VMTIs were represented, and communication skills training was required at all. Twenty-five CSTPs used the Calgary-Cambridge Guide framework. Respondents provided a mean of 33 student-contact hours of training, primarily in the first 3 years of the veterinary curriculum in lecture (mean, 12 hours), communication laboratory (13 hours), and self-study (8 hours) formats with formative feedback. Communication skills training was integrated with other disciplines at 27 VMTIs. Most CSTPs were coordinated and taught by 1 faculty member with a < 0.50 full-time equivalent commitment and no administrative support. Stated priorities included acquisition of resources for CSTP faculty, administrative support, and video-equipped facilities; increasing integration of CSTPs into curricula; and assessment of educational outcomes.
CONCLUSIONS AND CLINICAL RELEVANCE
Results suggested that support for CSTPs and recognition of their value continue to grow, but a lack of resources, faculty expertise, validated methods for outcomes assessment, and leadership remain challenges.
To assess the impact of a communication program on a cohort of veterinary students’ knowledge and performance of communication skills.
Class cohort of veterinary students at Colorado State University.
Year 3 students’ knowledge of communication skills was evaluated using quizzes, administered before and after the fall 2016 and spring 2017 Clinical Communication Skills-I and II junior practicum. In year 4, student performance of 22 Calgary-Cambridge Guide communication skills was assessed by coding video-recordings of student-client interactions collected during their second and fourth weeks of the Community Practice rotation in the summer and fall of 2017 and spring of 2018. The impact of training, association with demographic factors, and correlation between knowledge and performance of communication skills were investigated.
In year 3, 136 students completed both fall and spring quizzes; in year 4, 65 week-2 and 29 week-4 appointments were video-recorded during Community Practice rotation. Students’ knowledge assessed via quizzes containing skill spotting and skill demonstrating questions increased significantly after the fall and spring junior practicums; however, knowledge of communication skills was not associated with performance during year 4 Community Practice rotations. Communication skills most frequently demonstrated by students during the fourth year Community Practice rotation were open-ended questions, closed-ended questions, empathy toward the client and patient, providing “chunks” of information, and signposting. Students received high quality scores for non-verbal behaviors and logical clinical interview structure.
Results suggest that experiential learning techniques, including a flipped classroom approach, role-play, and communication laboratories contributed to increased student knowledge of communication skills.
Objective—To explore the relationship between veterinarian-client-patient interactions and client adherence to dental and surgery recommendations and to test the a priori hypotheses that appointment-specific client satisfaction and relationship-centered care are positively associated with client adherence.
Sample—A subsample of 19 companion-animal veterinarians and 83 clients from a larger observational study consisting of 20 randomly recruited veterinarians and a convenience sample of 350 clients from eastern Ontario.
Procedures—Videotaped veterinarian-client-patient interactions containing a dentistry recommendation, surgery recommendation, or both were selected for inclusion from the larger sample of interactions coded with the Roter interaction analysis system. Client adherence was measured by evaluating each patient's medical record approximately 6 months after the videotaped interaction. The clarity of the recommendation, appointment-specific client-satisfaction score, and relationship-centered care score were compared between adhering and nonadhering clients.
Results—Among the 83 veterinarian-client-patient interactions, 25 (30%) clients adhered to a dentistry recommendation, surgery recommendation, or both. The odds for adherence were 7 times as great for clients who received a clear recommendation, compared with clients who received an ambiguous recommendation from their veterinarian. Moreover, adhering clients were significantly more satisfied as measured after the interview. Interactions resulting in client adherence also had higher scores for relationship-centered care than did interactions leading to nonadherence.
Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—Veterinarian use of a relationship-centered care approach, characterized as a collaborative partnership between a veterinarian and a client with provision of clear recommendations and effective communication of the rationale for the recommendations, has positive implications for client adherence.
To describe and compare veterinary professionals’ use of shared decision-making during companion animal appointments.
Multi-practice cross-sectional study.
A purposive sample of 4 companion animal veterinary clinics in a group practice in Texas.
A convenience sample of veterinary appointments were recorded January to March 2018 and audio-recordings were analyzed using the Observer OPTION5 instrument to assess shared decision-making. Each decision was categorized by veterinary professional involvement.
A total of 76/85 (89%) appointments included at least 1 decision between the client and veterinary professional(s), with a total of 129 shared decisions. Decisions that involved both a veterinary technician and veterinarian scored significantly higher for elements of shared decision-making (OPTION5 = 29.5 ± 8.4; n = 46), than veterinarian-only decisions (OPTION5 = 25.4 ± 11.50; P = .040; n = 63), and veterinary technician-only decisions (OPTION5 = 22.5 ± 7.15; P = .001; n = 20). Specific elements of shared decision-making that differed significantly based on veterinary professional involvement included educating the client about options (OPTION5 Item 3; P = .0041) and integrating the client’s preference (OPTION5 Item 5; P = .0010).
Findings suggest that clients are more involved in decision making related to their pet’s health care when both the veterinary technician and veterinarian communicate with the client. Veterinary technicians’ communication significantly enhanced client engagement in decision-making when working collaboratively with the veterinarian.
Objective—To identify communication patterns used by veterinarians during clinical appointments in companion animal practice.
Design—Cross-sectional descriptive study.
Sample Population—A random sample of 50 companion animal practitioners in southern Ontario and a convenience sample of 300 clients and their pets.
Procedure—For each practitioner, 6 clinical appointments (3 wellness appointments and 3 appointments related to a health problem) were videotaped. The Roter interaction analysis system was used to analyze the resulting 300 videotapes, and cluster analysis was used to identify veterinarian communication patterns.
Results—175 (58%) appointments were classified as having a biomedical communication pattern, and 125 (42%) were classified as having a biolifestyle-social communication pattern. None were classified as having a consumerist communication pattern. Twentythree (46%) veterinarians were classified as using a predominantly biomedical communication pattern, 19 (38%) were classified as using a mixed communication pattern, and 8 (16%) were classified as using a predominantly biolifestyle-social communication pattern. Pattern use was related to the type of appointment. Overall, 103 (69%) wellness appointments were classified as biolifestyle-social and 127 (85%) problem appointments were classified as biomedical. Appointments with a biomedical communication pattern (mean, 11.98 minutes) were significantly longer than appointments with a biolifestyle-social communication pattern (10.43 minutes). Median relationship-centered care score (ie, the ratio of client-centered talk to veterinarian-centered talk) was significantly higher during appointments with a biolifestyle-social communication pattern (1.10) than during appointments with a biomedical communication pattern (0.40).
Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—Results suggest that veterinarians in companion animal practice use 2 distinct patterns of communication. Communication pattern was associated with duration of visit, type of appointment, and relationship-centeredness. Recognition of these communication patterns has implications for veterinary training and client and patient outcomes.
To examine variables of veterinary team effectiveness and personal empathy for associations with professional quality of life (ie, compassion satisfaction, burnout, and secondary traumatic stress) and job satisfaction in companion animal practice personnel.
Data from 232 surveys completed by personnel from 10 companion animal veterinary practices in 2 regions of the United States between April 7 and December 20, 2016.
Online surveys were used to collect practice-level data (eg, practice type, setting, and staffing) and individual-level data (eg, demographics, job position, and years in the position and profession). Instruments used in developing the surveys included the Team Effectiveness Instrument, Davis Interpersonal Reactivity Index, Professional Quality of Life Scale, and a measure for job satisfaction. Data were evaluated for associations with professional quality of life and job satisfaction.
Individual engagement was positively associated with job satisfaction, negatively associated with secondary traumatic stress, and moderated by levels of personal distress for compassion satisfaction and burnout. Toxic team environment was positively associated with burnout and negatively associated with job satisfaction. Empathetic concern and personal distress were both positively associated with secondary traumatic stress. Empathetic concern was moderated by team engagement for compassion satisfaction.
CONCLUSIONS AND CLINCAL RELEVANCE
Results indicated that variables influencing professional quality of life and job satisfaction were multimodal and included aspects of team effectiveness and empathy; therefore, workplace strategies that enhance individual and team engagement and mitigate toxic team environments could potentially improve professional quality of life and job satisfaction in veterinary personnel.
A convenience sample of 4 companion animal practices owned by a single practice group in Austin, Texas (n = 9 veterinarians; 170 audio recordings).
After intervention, visits were 8 minutes longer (P = .005), and veterinarians’ client-centered scores increased significantly (2.30 vs 2.72; P = .006). Veterinarians’ biomedical questions decreased by nearly a third (P = .0007), while veterinarians’ facilitation (ie, partnership-building) statements were 1.15 times as great (P = .04) after intervention due to an increase in asking for the client’s opinion (P = .03) and use of back-channel statements (P = .01). Agenda-setting skills, including agenda-setting questions (P = .009), summary of the client’s agenda (P = < .0001), and a check for remaining concerns (P = .013), increased significantly after intervention. Clients asked 1.9 times as many lifestyle-social related questions (P = .02) and provided 1.3 times as much lifestyle-social information (P = .0004) after the intervention. Additionally, clients offered 1.4 times as many emotion-handling statements (P = .0001), including showing concern (P = .03) and optimism, reassurance, or encouragement (P < .0001), after intervention. Paraverbally, clients presented as more anxious/nervous (P = .03) and emotionally distressed/upset (P = .02) after the intervention.
Results suggest that client-centered communication skills increased after intervention. This study builds upon previous case-based studies examining practice-based communication training, emphasizing that long-term interventions positively enhance veterinarian-client communication, which is likely to have a positive impact on client and patient care.
The study was designed as a multipractice, preintervention-postintervention study. Practice teams participated in a 15-month communication skills intervention that included interactive group workshops and one-on-one communication coaching with the entire practice. Client Satisfaction Questionnaires were completed 3 months before (mean, 55 questionnaires/veterinarian) and after (mean, 48 questionnaires/veterinarian) the intervention. The impact of the intervention and factors associated with client visit satisfaction were evaluated with mixed logistic regression.
Client satisfaction scores were dichotomized owing to extreme negative skewness. In total, 57% (284/496) of clients were completely satisfied on pretest questionnaires, and 67% (290/434) were completely satisfied on postintervention questionnaires. The odds of clients being completely satisfied were significantly higher after the communication skills intervention (OR = 1.56; P = .002). When controlling for the intervention, predictors of client visit satisfaction included appointment type (odds of being completely satisfied were significantly higher for recheck appointments than for preventative care appointments [OR = 1.71; P = .02] and health problem appointments [OR = 1.99; P = .003]) and duration of the veterinarian-client relationship (probability increased by 0.52 with each 1-year increase in relationship duration; P = .008).
Results suggested that the client-centered, skills-based communication intervention resulted in increased client visit satisfaction. Findings contribute to current evidence that client-centered communication and duration of the veterinarian-client relationship promote client satisfaction during veterinary visits.
OBJECTIVE To evaluate veterinarian-client communication and veterinarian and client satisfaction with veterinary visits before and after veterinarians underwent a 6-month communication skills training program in a practice setting.
PROCEDURES The practice team (3 veterinarians, 5 veterinary technicians, 1 receptionist, and 1 office manager) participated in a 6-month educational program (intervention) that included interactive communication modules, individual coaching, and a communication laboratory. For each of the veterinarians, 6 appointments were video recorded and 30 additional clients completed a visit satisfaction survey both before and after the intervention. The Roter interaction analysis system was used to analyze the video-recorded appointments.
RESULTS After the intervention, appointments were 5.4 minutes longer and veterinarians asked 60% fewer closed-ended lifestyle-social questions, provided 1.4 times as much biomedically related client education, and used 1.5 and 1.25 times as much facilitative and emotional rapport communication, respectively, compared with before the intervention. Clients provided veterinarians with 1.3 times as much biomedically related information and engaged in twice as much social conversation. After the intervention, veterinarians perceived their clients as complaining less and being more personable and trusting, and clients felt more involved in the appointment and reported that the veterinarian expressed greater interest in their opinion.
CONCLUSIONS AND CLINICAL RELEVANCE Results indicated that the intervention resulted in veterinarians who spent more time educating and building rapport with their clients and facilitating client input in an unhurried environment, which enhanced overall veterinarian visit satisfaction and various aspects of client visit satisfaction.