Companion animal veterinarians' use of clinical communication skills

Authors


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Abstract

Objective

To describe the communication techniques used by clients and veterinarians during companion animal visits in Australia.

Design

A cross-sectional descriptive study.

Methods

A total of 64 veterinary consultations were audiotaped and analysed with the Roter Interaction Analysis System (RIAS); clients completed appointment level measures, including their satisfaction and perceptions of relational communication.

Results

Participants were 24 veterinarians and 64 clients. Statements intended to reassure clients were expressed frequently in the consultations, but in 59% of appointments empathy statements were not expressed towards either the client or the patient. In 10% of appointments, veterinarians did not used any open-ended questions. Overall client satisfaction was high and veterinarians' expressions of empathy directed to the client resulted in higher levels of client satisfaction. Clients' perceptions of relational communication were related to several veterinarian and client nonverbal scales.

Conclusions

A focus on developing evidence-based clinical communication skills is expected to further enhance the veterinarian–client–patient relationship and associated clinical outcomes. Particular recommendations include the development of a broader emotion-handling repertoire, increased emphasis on the use of open-ended enquiry, including assessment of the client's perspective, as well as attention to aspects of nonverbal communication. The study provides preliminary evidence for the importance of verbal expressions of empathy during the companion animal consultation.

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