JOURNAL ARTICLE

Faculty and students' self-assessment of client communication skills and professional ethics in three veterinary medical schools

Katherine Fogelberg, Charles C Farnsworth
Journal of Veterinary Medical Education 2009, 36 (4): 423-8
20054081
Client communication skills and professional ethics are areas that have received much attention in veterinary education in recent years. The objectives of this study were to: i) establish the confidence level of faculty teaching in three veterinary schools with regard to their client communication skills, ii) establish a baseline of professional ethics indicators in the same faculty, and iii) compare veterinary students of all levels to faculty in both areas. Students and faculty received identical questionnaires, including statements addressing client communication skills and professional ethics. The results indicate that students are generally comfortable with their communication skills, except in the areas of visual and/or audio aid use, handling emotional clients, and discussing costs of care and payment. Faculty were more comfortable than students in all areas of client communication, although they also had low confidence when dealing with costs of care and payment. Ethically, students and faculty answered similarly. Faculty showed a stronger belief that people are basically honest and ethical, but both cohorts responded similarly when asked about reporting an ethical violation admitted to them by their best friend. Further research is needed to determine whether students are communicating as effectively as they believe they are, with particular attention paid to improving communications with emotional clients and the business aspects of veterinary medicine. Additional work is needed to ensure that veterinary students are learning how to cope with ethical issues objectively. This may begin by ensuring that faculty are teaching and, more importantly, modeling these behaviors during the clinical year(s).

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