In keeping with Vegas rules, it was made very clear that what happened in the room stayed in the room. This was one of the first matters brought up during our Accelerated Clinical Excellence course’s small group client communication modules. So as to not betray the trust of my classmates, I cannot divulge what transpired during the three-hour session. However, I can say that I left the room with a greater sense of confidence in being able to speak with clients, and more importantly, to listen to them. We learned that there have been a handful of studies that looked into the amount of time that it took groups of veterinarians to interrupt clients and groups of MDs to interrupt their patients in hospitals. A 2011 publication documented that 55% of veterinarians in the study interrupted clients and that they only waited an average of 15.3 seconds before chiming in to the pet owners’ statements. Those statistics are not very flattering. We were instructed to avoid this tendency.
Before my classmates and I practiced our fictitious clinical scenarios with “clients” (who in real life were workers in the hospital but acted the part of client), we reviewed basic principles of communication that we should strive to achieve in the exam room. Perhaps the most important one was to use open-ended questions to persuade the client to say more than simply yes or no. In addition to this, we all agreed that projecting empathy and a caring heart, no matter how excellent or grave a prognosis for an animal may be, ought to be the modus operandi.