Teaching and learning communication in veterinary medicine

Suzanne Kurtz
Journal of Veterinary Medical Education 2006, 33 (1): 11-9
Drawing on extensive evidence and experience in human medicine, this article offers a practical conceptual framework for thinking more precisely about how to teach and learn communication systematically and intentionally in veterinary medicine. The overarching goal is to promote the development of communication programs so as to improve communication in veterinary practice to a professional level of competence. A three-part conceptual framework is presented that first explores the rationale behind teaching and learning communication, including the evidence base regarding the impact of communication on clinician-client interactions and outcomes of care and the research on teaching and learning communication skills in medicine. The second part considers four ways to conceptualize what to teach and learn, as explicated by (a) the domains of communication in veterinary medicine; (b) ''first principles'' of effective communication; (c) evidence-based goals or outcomes for communication programs; and (d) delineation and definition of the specific individual skills that research evidence supports, as presented in the Calgary-Cambridge Guides. The last part of the conceptual framework examines how to teach communication, including the use of models, a primary focus on skill development as the backbone of communication programs, and the value of other methods supported by the evidence, such as simulated patients, videotape, small groups, and feedback and facilitation skills. Communication impacts the clinician- client interaction and outcomes of care in very significant ways. Communication can and should be taught and learned with as much rigor as other aspects of clinical competence. Veterinary programs at all levels should include the teaching of communication.

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