In recognition of its outstanding commitment to improving clinician-client communication, the College of Veterinary Medicine of Washington State University (Pullman, WA) has received the Institute for Healthcare Communication Program Partner Award for 2006.
In 2002, under the leadership of Dean Warwick Bayly, WSU’s College of Veterinary Medicine (CVM) began a comprehensive initiative to address the significant gaps in non-technical and professional skills training for future veterinarians documented in several major studies. A five-year campaign was begun to integrate teaching and reinforcement of such competencies – including leadership skills, emotional intelligence, and communication skills – into the veterinary medicine curriculum.
The campaign led to the development of a freshmen orientation experience (the Cougar Orientation and Leadership Experience or COLE) that stressed awareness of emotional intelligence competencies and a personal leadership model. Through that vehicle, incoming WSU CVM students are introduced to the concept that relationships with others, whether colleagues, peers or clients, all start with the abilities to be self aware and aware of the perceptions of others.
WSU understood that getting faculty buy-in required professional retreats in which the case for the development of non-technical competencies was introduced and reinforced. These faculty forums ultimately led to an ongoing partnership with the Institute for Healthcare Communication (IHC), and specifically the Bayer Animal Health (BAH) Communication Project, which had undertaken the mission of training faculty in clinical communications.
At WSU the BAH training modules have been integrated into the classrooms of a wide variety of subjects, and students have been encouraged to investigate such specialty areas as “Dealing with the Difficult Client,” “Medical Team Communications,” and “Helping Clients Through Euthanasia.” Furthermore, faculty have asked to have communications components integrated into their labs and problem-based discussions.
Since 2002, WSU has gradually been adding more content to a variety of classes and clinical rotations, which has been instrumental in changing the culture from one of science-only training to one that incorporates the dimensions of communications and personal leadership skills into all aspects of the training and governance of the college. To this end, in 2005, WSU recruited Dr. Suzanne Kurtz to join the faculty to assist in the development of a clinical communications training program similar to that which she spearheaded and led at the School of Medicine in Calgary for 25 years.
Finally, WSU established the Veterinary Leadership Experience (VLE), an annual leadership symposium that brings together two students and one faculty member from vet schools in the US, and more recently, Canada, Australia and Europe, and exposes them to the principles of non-technical skills, including professionalism, leadership, emotional intelligence and communication training. In its third year of existence, the VLE has obtained national recognition and support from the AVMA, and industry partners, and has provided a networking/meeting place and list serve for initiated faculty and students to continue working to promote the integration of these skills into their respective schools.
About the College of Veterinary Medicine at Washington State University
The College of Veterinary Medicine at Washington State University is the fifth oldest veterinary college in the United States and sixth oldest among the veterinary colleges in the U.S. and Canada. The school was founded in 1899 beginning with a single $60 shed. From those modest beginnings, it has developed into a multi-million dollar stateof- the-art complex serving the entire Pacific Northwest.
Today the College of Veterinary Medicine is one of the nation’s top veterinary schools. It has one of the best-equipped veterinary teaching hospitals in the world and top faculty who are respected worldwide. The College is fully accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association, awards more than $200,000 in scholarships each year to DVM students, and ranks among the top U.S. veterinary colleges in terms of extramural research support.
The College of Veterinary Medicine is organized into 3 departments, each dedicated to excellence in teaching, research, and service.
Veterinary Clinical Sciences (VCS) includes the Veterinary Teaching Hospital. The department teaches clinical subjects such as medicine, surgery, and radiology. VCS is responsible for teaching the majority of the third and fourth year professional curriculum and is home to the clinical training programs for interns and residents.
Veterinary and Comparative Anatomy, Pharmacology and Physiology (VCAPP) has responsibility for the anatomy, physiology, pharmacology, and neuroscience courses taught in the veterinary curriculum and is home to the undergraduate and graduate neuroscience programs.
Veterinary Microbiology and Pathology (VMP) provides core instruction in the veterinary curriculum in bacteriology, immunology, parasitology, pathology, public health, and virology and provides diagnostic services through the Washington Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory.