A qualitative study to explore communication skills in veterinary medical education

Wendy J. Hamood1, Anna Chur-Hansen2 and Michelle L. McArthur1

1School of Animal and Veterinary Science, University of Adelaide, Roseworthy Campus, Roseworthy, South Australia

2School of Psychology, University of Adelaide, South Australia

Submitted: 22/07/2014; Accepted: 30/09/2014; Published: 11/10/2014

Int J Med Educ. 2014; 5:193-198; doi: 10.5116/ijme.542a.975d

© 2014 Wendy J. Hamood et al. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use of work provided the original work is properly cited. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0

Objectives: To explore and gain an understanding of what "clinical communication skills" mean to veterinarians working in private practice and what implications this might have for veterinary medical education.

Methods: Qualitative research methods were used to purposefully sample a range of veterinary practitioners from a pool of South Australian veterinary practices who were interviewed to determine their understanding of what communication skills mean in the context of veterinary practice. Interviews were conducted with fourteen veterinary practitioners. Participants were sampled from a range of ages, veterinary schools of graduation plus urban and rural locations. Interview transcripts were analysed for themes, definitions and contexts.

Results: Participants' accounts included a number of skills which they considered to be "communication". Some of the definitions of these skills parallel communication skills and competencies for human medicine on which communication skills training incorporated into veterinary curricula to date have largely been based. However, the veterinarians in this study also raised interesting contextual differences unique to the veterinary profession, such as communication with the animal, selling service, discussing money in relation to decisions for care, and communicating about euthanasia.

Conclusions: Veterinary practitioners require high level communication skills. Education and training in veterinary medicine may be better tailored to reflect the unique context of the veterinary profession.