It’s funny that we spend four years being educated in medical lingo and fancy “doctor words” only to go through our careers translating this jargon into understandable language for our clients. However, what I’ve quickly learned is how incredibly important the ability to clearly communicate with clients truly is. How can we expect efficacious dedication to a treatment plan if an owner doesn’t understand what is affecting their pet and why we implement the therapeutic measures that we do? The truth is that we can’t.
I’ve seen multiple owners with pets referred to the teaching hospital who are completely unclear about what is wrong with their animal. Even in my second year of vet school, I have seen how easy it is to slip into a vocabulary consisting almost entirely of scientific or medical terminology. Words that I would never have expected to roll off my tongue a year ago — like ptyalism, hyperadrenocorticism, hirsutism, or polyuria — now seem like old friends. But as they become more and more commonplace to me, the more I realize that as a veterinarian, I need to be a glorified translator.
Clients WANT to understand what’s going on. Yet often, we forget to check-in with them and ensure that they actually DO. No one is going to be a perfect communicator overnight, and I am slowly trying to accept this reality for myself. Perfecting explanatatory skills takes practice, just as it took practice to learn the “doctor speak” to which I so fervently cling.
So for now, I’ll do my best to use my “doctor words” where they belong: communication with colleagues…or impressing my friends and family in Scrabble.