Learning how to confidently interact with people is crucial to being a successful veterinarian. Knowing what to ask, when to ask it, how to deal with people of all walks of life…many people think vets get to have fun all day playing with animals but interacting with people is just as important.
While most people are worried about learning all the medical stuff, communication skills are the one area where school really doesn’t prepare you well. In fact, despite having lectures on how to effectively communicate, they can’t teach you how to actually do it. It’s either you have it or you don’t and you ultimately just need to keep practicing to get better.
Once a year the school makes us go through simulated scenarios with actors who are paid to come in and pretend to be real clients. During my first two years, the scenarios have been pretty straightforward and our main goal was to just practice getting a history and delivering the case results to the client.
Since we are almost to fourth-year, the scenarios have been made more difficult. In these scenarios the prognosis for the animal wasn’t favorable, so we had to give our fake clients the poor news. In one of the scenarios, my guy was very understanding and didn’t really put much pressure on me but in the other situation that was not the case.
Instead, I got tossed into the deep end. My client wanted me to do everything that I could despite there being very slim chances of success. Even though I kept reiterating the unlikely chance of a recovery, the guy threw everything he could at me. For example, his father was in the hospital, he was going to get fired from his job if the animal didn’t make it, and would lose his house if that happened.
While I wasn’t expecting the guy to go this far I am glad he did. No matter what the guy said, I stuck to my guns because the I knew the animal wasn’t healthy and I wouldn’t be able to correct the problem. I knew that the problem wasn’t this guy’s fault and I was empathetic to all the personal scenarios that he brought up. In the end, he understood everything from my point of view and we agreed upon a course of action.
Overall I thought that I learned a lot from these simulations. I am much more capable than I thought and I need to have more confidence in myself. As one of my reviewers told me, it’s not about doing everything perfectly; I am just starting out and should use this as a learning experience. Practice makes perfect and pretty soon I will have many opportunities to improve.