In 2002, IHC expanded the scope of communication training to veterinary medicine through educational grants from sponsors such as Bayer Animal Health. The Veterinary Communication Project at IHC was developed to address gaps in veterinarian-client communication training at veterinary schools. To address those gaps, the Project has produced 16 educational modules with tools and resources for improving communication skills on a variety of topics. Teaching communication in veterinary medicine is now endorsed across the profession through national reports such as the North American Veterinary Medical Education Consortium, Partners for Healthy Pets, Brakke and Mega studies, Bayer Veterinary Care Usage Study, veterinary curriculum standards as set by AVMA Council of Education, and the North American Veterinary Licensing Examination testing of client communication skills for licensure. In addition, veterinary academic surveys have consistently demonstrated that practice success is dependent upon effective communication skills, and consumer surveys show that good communication is the number one priority when animal owners choose or decide to stay with a veterinary practice. Since 2003, close to 500 faculty members have been trained to teach the IHC’s veterinary communication modules within the curriculum in schools of veterinary medicine and technology across the United States, Canada, Japan, Australia, Portugal, Brazil and Chile.
In addition to the Veterinary Communication Project faculty training (train-the-trainer) offered to veterinary school faculty, IHC has provided over 200 invited presentations, workshops and seminars at state, national and international veterinary conferences. Target audiences have included veterinary professionals in practice, research, industry and academia.
Since 2003, IHC has developed, piloted and implemented a series of sixteen (16) educational modules and training films on skill-based communication topics in veterinary medicine. The modules have been shared with 442 faculty from 51 schools of veterinary medicine and technology in the United States, Canada, Australia, Portugal, Japan and South America during IHC’s annual faculty (train-the-trainer) course. The course provides foundational training required for faculty who teach the IHC Veterinary Communication modules.
The modules emphasize both communication content, issues, and processes that have been identified through focus groups with veterinary practitioners, healthcare teams, consultation with Advisory Council members, faculty members, and review of the human and veterinary medical literature.
Each module contains the following materials:
- Slide presentation (PowerPoint slides with suggested faculty teaching notes)
- Interactive teaching strategies (reflective exercises, skills practice, etc.)
- Video demonstration (case-based videos depicting content and contextually relevant veterinary interactions)
- Customized workbook (syllabi for students)
IHC Veterinary Communication Modules
Getting the Client Story
Being able to elicit and understand the story provided by the client is essential to: a) Building a veterinarian-client relationship, b) Diagnostic accuracy and c) Gathering information, and beliefs about the pet’s condition from the client. This calls for core communication skills including questioning, reflecting, empathizing, and negotiating.
This module provides an overview of decision-making in veterinary practice and covers a range of roles the veterinarian takes with clients. Shared decision-making model is proposed where veterinarian and client exchange information, values, and preferences in arriving at decisions. Veterinarian and client work as partners in addressing the pet’s medical care.
The module addresses many of the issues involved in the veterinarian’s role in discussions about euthanasia. Issues that will be addressed include the delivery of bad news, quality of life, options, shared decision-making, education about the euthanasia procedure, decisions about client present euthanasia, and potential grieving process.
AAHA studies reveal client adherence to be much lower than what veterinarians think. This module addresses factors that influence client adherence. Skills integral to productive interaction leading to client commitment are reinforced such as establishing trust, credibility, demonstrating empathy, and providing literacy sensitive education.
Roughly 80% of all communication between individuals is nonverbal. Only 20 % is verbal and voluntary and represents only a small proportion of our messaging. Problems a client may be having in the animal’s care are signaled in the nonverbal channel. This module was created in response to the belief that most people have no formal training in nonverbal communication.
This module raises learners awareness about their own “hot buttons” during client interactions. A series of videotaped client situations and a protocol offers practice application. Skills and communication tools to help difficult relationships be successful are organized into a user-friendly skill-based model for practice.
Elephant in the Room: Money Talk with Clients
Discussing money is often fraught with secrecy and high emotion yet discussing these issues openly is important to a trusting client relationship. Learners experiment with communication tools to increase confidence and competence in fee discussions with clients.
This module equips veterinarians to manage communication challenges in emergency settings. Bad news may have to be delivered and tough decisions are to be made. Time pressures abound. The module will provide learners with tools to help them effectively and efficiently establish a relationship with clients and families and communicate bad news in a way that will enhance client satisfaction and reduce complaints while also promoting excellent patient clinical care.
Are We Good Here?: Speaking of Ethics
Information and technology and new social views of animals are changing practices and procedures of veterinary medicine and altering the ethical landscape. Ethical dilemmas require tools and guidelines for proposing solutions and making ethical decisions. Learners gain awareness of the nature of ethical dilemmas, a 5-step ethical decision-making process and core communication skills—all necessary steps toward effectively resolving ethical dilemmas.
When medical errors result in adverse outcomes, it requires a thoughtful response on the part of the veterinarian, staff, and practice. Yet, many clinicians are fearful of formal complaints and potential malpractice suits. As a result, simply telling clinicians they “ought” to disclose an unanticipated outcome or error is ineffective. This module enables veterinarians to identify, appreciate and practice techniques essential in responding to clients constructively in these difficult situations.
Easy for you to say: Vet Team Communication
Veterinarians must effectively communicate with the healthcare team and role model productive interactions related to decision-making and problem-solving. Teams are influenced by interpersonal dynamics, gender and cohort differences, hierarchical roles and power differential and conflict. Learners will learn to better understand the critical components of team communication and practice skills that will facilitate communication within members of the team.
This workshop addresses unique client communication challenges faced by members of the veterinary team with a focus on the role of veterinary technicians. Using structured activity, video, and short presentations, learners apply communication tools for practice application.
This workshop will help practitioners learn coping skills to manage the distress that builds from an overemphasis on caring for others who are suffering and an underemphasis on the care of self. Through interactive activities, veterinary professionals gain knowledge about and prevention of compassion fatigue while identifying early warning signs to reclaim the satisfaction, hope, and inspiration that led to choosing this career path.
We all face conflict and we all have had both positive and negative outcomes as a result of conflict. What makes conflict negative or positive is the way in which it is handled. This workshop provides information, activities and tools for learners to help prevent conflict and manage emotions during conflict.
This module will provide healthcare team members with the foundational skills for providing and receiving feedback in the workplace. Learners will come away with a knowledge base and skill practice opportunities for assimilating feedback into their professional work environment that includes formal and informal feedback practice. (NOTE: April 28, 2018 launch of this module)