The Argus Institute at the James L. Voss Veterinary Teaching Hospital is partnering with Firehouse Animal Health Centers in Denver to train veterinary clinic doctors and employees in enhanced communication with pet owners to improve pet health and owner satisfaction in care.
The intensive year-long program works with all employees at the Firehouse facility at Capitol Hill, emphasizing the role of every person in the business - from the receptionist to the doctors - in effective communication. The training is lead by Argus Director Jane Shaw, known nationally for her pioneering work in veterinary communication, and Dr. Gwyn Barley, Director of the Center for Advancing Professional Excellence at University of Colorado's Denver Health Sciences Center, School of Medicine.
During the training, Drs. Shaw and Barley shadow veterinary team members one day a month, closely observing their interactions with clients and providing feedback about how the team could communicate and listen more effectively.
"Ultimately, our quality of care depends on our ability to communicate with clients, animals and staff. Without effective communication, our standard of care suffers," said Dr. Cassie Todd, a veterinarian at Firehouse. "Effective and specific communication is integral."
Veterinary communication - communication between veterinarians and pet owners - is a new topic in veterinary training. Although communication is a typical part of training for human medical doctors, Colorado State's Argus Institute is a leader in the nation on training veterinary students in communication skills they'll need to improve outcomes for veterinarians, clients and their pets. The veterinary communication field is a growing discipline gaining the attention of researchers and professionals.
Poor communication skills can lead to stress, anxiety and turnover among veterinary teams, who may be unequipped to address challenging conversations or who may not have the skills to encourage the client to reveal key details that may make significant differences in their diagnosis of a pet. In addition, clients may not comply with medical directions for their pet, or may feel unsatisfied with the care their animal received if a veterinarian is not skillful at explaining a diagnosis, treatment plan, or expectations the pet owner should have for their pet's health.
"Effective communication is important to everyone involved in veterinary care," Dr. Shaw said. "Developing a collaborative partnership based on mutual respect, negotiation and understanding with clients and among staff has many benefits. Veterinarians are more satisfied with their job and clients are more likely to follow their recommendations. Animals experience improved health and a closer bond develops between pet owners and veterinary team."
Image courtesy of Washington State University Image Data Base.