Veterinarians‘ Communication Skills and the Impact of an Educational Intervention: a Pilot Study

Miss Michelle Mcarthur (). Veterinarians‘ Communication Skills and the Impact of an Educational Intervention: a Pilot Study Professional Doctorate, School of Psychology, The University of Queensland.

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Author Miss Michelle Mcarthur
Thesis Title Veterinarians‘ Communication Skills and the Impact of an Educational Intervention: a Pilot Study
School, Centre or Institute School of Psychology
Institution The University of Queensland
Thesis type Professional Doctorate
Supervisor Dr. Jenny Fitzgerald
Total pages 211
Abstract/Summary Abstract Veterinarian communication skills, communication styles and the effect of a communication skills workshop were examined in this thesis. In addition, veterinarian mental health and veterinarian self-efficacy in communicating effectively with clients were a focus of the study. Finally, the study investigated client satisfaction, their intent to adhere to veterinarians‘ recommendations and clients‘ perceptions of the relationship-centred care skills of the veterinarian. The recognition of the human-animal bond and its importance to human wellbeing and the consequent need for effective veterinarian communication skills to support this relationship, provided the impetus for this study. A sample of 24 veterinarians from South-East Queensland and Adelaide, together with their 103 clients attending an appointment for a health related problem were recruited to participate in the study. Within this group, 13 veterinarians elected to participate in an educational intervention designed to enhance communication skills. A cross-sectional analysis utilised the entire veterinarian sample. All veterinarians completed a communication confidence measure, a post-interview exit question, a Depression Anxiety and Stress Scale, and provided basic demographic information. Intervention veterinarians also completed these measures at follow-up as well as a workshop evaluation form. Clients completed a Veterinarian Consultation and Relational Empathy Scale, a brief satisfaction survey, an Adherence Intent measure and provided basic demographic information. Audiotapes were analysed with the Roter Interaction Analysis System (RIAS), a validated quantitative coding scheme widely used internationally in medical, and more recently in veterinarian, communication research. The current project is the first time the RIAS has been used in veterinarian communication research in Australia. Study 1 was a cross-sectional examination of communication practices and styles of veterinarians and their relationship to key veterinarian and client demographics and outcomes. Veterinarians‘ provision of biomedical information was the focus of the interaction. Veterinarian expression of empathy, use of open-ended questions, partnership statements and asking for the clients‘ opinions were infrequent during the appointments. Two biomedical communication patterns were identified via cluster analysis and were significantly different on key variables. Study 2 involved a pre-experimental pre-test/post-test single group design, to evaluate the effects of a six and a half hour communication skills intervention for veterinarians, which was provided in one day. This is the first known study which has investigated the effect of a communication skills workshop for veterinarians. Consistent with the literature, didactic and predominately experiential teaching methods including video review and feedback of role-plays were utilised in the intervention. Content consisted of core communication skills including nonverbal communication, open-ended questions, paraphrasing and expression of empathy as well as the delivery of bad news. Veterinarians rated the acceptability, relevance and impact of the workshop very highly and apart from one participant, all reported they would like to attend further training. However, and contrary to expectation, veterinarian communication skills did not improve as a result of attending the workshop. Intervention veterinarians‘ communication confidence did not increase at follow up. Client satisfaction and perceptions of veterinarians‘ relational communication skills did not increase but clients reported an increased intent to adhere to veterinarian recommendations. Intervention veterinarians‘ levels of stress decreased at post-test. While many null findings were reported, these contribute unique information to an emergent field. Some veterinarians in this sample, while showing strengths, may not utilise all the skills necessary for effective interaction, which have implications for clients and companion animals as well as personal and practice success. The results of the study suggest amongst other explanations, that while the workshop was highly regarded, either the duration of the training was insufficient or that a booster session was required, to increase veterinarian confidence and integration of new skills. Future research should utilise a randomised control study design of sufficient power to investigate the dosage of intervention required to achieve change in veterinarian communication skills. Given the documented concerns regarding veterinarians‘ mental health, the expected finding that veterinarians‘ stress reduced after the educational intervention merits further careful investigation. In addition to the tentative findings of the current study, future rigorous studies would provide a solid foundation for the implementation of much needed professional development, with the possible assistance of psychologists, to help veterinarians develop more effective interactions in their daily lives and appeal to the inherently human side of the profession.
Keyword veterinarians
communication skills
mental health
communication styles
client satisfaction
client adherence
client outcomes

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Created: Mon, 11 Oct 2010, 13:45:33 EST by Miss Michelle Mcarthur