Communication in veterinary healthcare

Communication helps ensure the delivery of safe, high-quality veterinary care. Whilst there are some close parallels between how veterinary  and human healthcare are delivered, there are also specific differences. Communication in veterinary medicine should take into account the triad of veterinary health care professional – client/owner – animal patient. This requires collaboration between a wide range of people: animal owners, veterinary professionals (veterinary surgeons and nurses), other veterinary team members and paraprofessionals. Differing perspectives, ethical and moral values and aims can challenge how people make collective sense of the animals in their care and create barriers to reaching truly collaborative decisions. In addition, veterinary healthcare conversations often deal with specific challenges such as finances, end-of-life care and euthanasia, herd health, managing outbreaks and business stakes for traditional livestock farming and others such as aquaculture, and owners of competition and laboratory animals.

The key aim for this SIG is supporting the veterinary team in its widest sense, i.e. including animal owners and carers, to develop and use effective communication strategies to achieve the best possible clinical, athletic and production outcomes for animal patients and owners’ specific situations.

Veterinary communication practitioners, educators and researchers have learnt much from communication research, pedagogy and policy in both human and veterinary healthcare. For example, many veterinary schools now integrate communication skills training, some based on the Calgary-Cambridge model, into their curricula. There is active research and educational innovation occurring both within and outside of veterinary schools worldwide seeking to continually advance our understanding of veterinary communication and how to improve the education, training and support veterinary teams receive. However, there still seems to be a mismatch between the rapidly evolving knowledge about the importance of communication skills and the use of these research and teaching outcomes in practice.

Therefore there is, we believe, a need to provide a focused ‘community of practice’ aimed at championing the importance of communication skills in veterinary medicine. This would achieve a better collective understanding of the research and teaching work occurring across the profession worldwide, support those with an interest in this area to become involved and spread knowledge, evidence and experience across the veterinary health care profession.

Situating this group with EACH allows this group to continue to benefit from the healthcare communication community, whilst refining, developing and tuning approaches to be applicable in the veterinary context. Indeed, we believe the differences in communication challenges experienced within the veterinary context, and the approaches developed to manage them, are of interest to all communication researchers and educators.

Therefore a key aim of this  SIG is  to foster a coherent interdisciplinary and inter-professional approach to  OneHealth, specifically focusing on  communication.

Aims

  1. Be a focus and/or starting point for veterinary communication researchers, educators and enthusiasts worldwide. Compile and share resources, experience, best practices and support related to veterinary clinical communication.

    We’re from very different contexts and our diversity is an asset: opportunity to work together and uplift each other in various contexts (companion versus production animals, students vs graduates, and dealing with perspectives from  various countries)
  1. Address gaps in knowledge specific to communication in VetMed and overarching disciplines (One health), which include, but are not limited to:
    • managing outbreaks
    • euthanasia
    • cost specific discussions
    • antimicrobial stewardship
    • weighing animal welfare against emotional and financial considerations in companion animal practice
    • balancing animal welfare against economy for production and competition animals.
  2. Disseminate knowledge, resources and best practices to benefit veterinary communication research, innovation in both veterinary curricula and in the field.

Proposed activity

  1. Quarterly meetings to discuss what is ‘hot and happening’ in veterinary communication research, practice and education
  2. Organize SIG workshops/symposia at EACH/ICCH and ACH meetings
  3. Develop a platform for veterinarians who provide veterinary communication education and research either in academic institutions or through clinical practice. Through this network we will facilitate a variety of online communication/interactions and face to face meeting opportunities at conferences
  4. Keep a database of veterinarians who provide veterinary communication education and research
  5. Develop a ‘Strategy to implement a communication skills curriculum’ that can be widely used in veterinary colleges who wish to set up communication skills education
  6. Social media presence to widely share outcomes with EACH members and the broader public (veterinarians, veterinary advisors etc)
  7. Identify and develop best practices for teaching veterinary communication by collating information on current methods, models and techniques currently used in undergraduate curricula in vet schools worldwide with a view to producing a publication updating previous research in this area.

    (Mossop et al. 2015 Communication skills training: what the vet schools are doing. Veterinary Record, 176: 114-117. https://doi.org/10.1136/vr.h425)

Officers

Inaugural Chair: Ruth Serlin
Secretary: Annelies Decloedt
Social Media Officer: Linda Dorrestein
Communication Officer: Helen Ovregaard
Development Officer: Elly Russell
Events Officer: Simone Scoccianti