Communication skills training at the Atlantic Veterinary College, University of Prince Edward Island

Darcy H Shaw, Sherri L Ihle
Journal of Veterinary Medical Education 2006, 33 (1): 100-4
Communication skills are considered a core clinical skill in human medicine. Recognizing the importance of communication skills and addressing them in veterinary curricula, however, is just beginning. In the fall of 2003, the Atlantic Veterinary College, University of Prince Edward Island, markedly changed the way in which it approaches communication teaching. An intensive one-week elective rotation on client communication was offered in the senior year. This rotation made extensive use of experiential techniques through the use of role plays and videotaped real client interactions. A group of faculty and hospital staff members were trained as coaches to support students as they practiced their communication in various client scenarios. The skills taught were based on the Calgary-Cambridge Observation Guide, which outlines observable behaviors that contribute to effective medical communication. Student response to and feedback on the rotation have been very positive. As a result, the number of rotations given per year has been increased. Long-term plans include expanding communication skills teaching into other years of the DVM program and incorporating simulated clients into the teaching program. Challenges that lie ahead include the development of a fully integrated communication teaching program that spans the whole curriculum, addressing the ongoing need for the professional development of coaches, improving methods of student assessment, and recruiting/training a sufficient number of coaches.

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