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Proven To Be True

This week I attended the International Conference on Communication in Veterinary Medicine (ICCVM) in Calistoga, Calif. It was an eye-opening experience, not just because of my first exposure to fields of vineyard grapes—this is Napa Valley after all--but also due to my first exposure to the breadth of research, education and clinical application on the topic of communication in our profession. Amazing stuff! So many great points to take home! (And no, not even one bottle of wine went back home with me!)

In attendance were veterinarian practitioners and a few support staff members, but mostly researchers and educators. Their studies and lectures ranged from teaching methods in veterinary school to how to conduct communication research to successful communication within the practice team. As a team member, manager and now consultant, I “knew” many things about communication in our profession that research has proven to be true. It’s nice to be able to say, “Studies have shown that …”:

1. Results, positive or negative, directly correlate to the level of involvement and commitment of the practice leadership.

2. You cannot effectively teach good communication skills to a dysfunctional team that exists in a toxic practice culture.

3. When the team experiences initial success, it will reach subsequent success quicker because of the motivation now present.

4. A gap exists between what veterinarians and veterinary technicians do and what the opposite group THINKS they do.

5. If you involve the team in developing the solution, the problem will be fixed sooner and better.

6. The “client-centered practice” is no longer vogue. Now you need to strive for a “relationship-centered practice.”

7. The concept of Appreciative Inquiry basically says we can learn more from our previous successes than from our failures.

8. When we are tempted to jump to conclusions, a good exercise is to mentally develop six reasons why the present situation has occurred rather than jumping to your first conclusion.

9. When we quiet the constant chatter in our heads, we can more fully focus on and empathize with our clients and other team members.

10. Communication skills have been shown to be just as important, in fact more so, than technical medical skills in the delivery of veterinary medicine.

11. Those invested in communication can improve their skills, while it is more difficult to reach and improve those who are not invested.

12. Veterinarians who talk to their patients appear to be more empathic to the accompanying client.

13. Clients whose pets are diagnosed with terminal illness can conquer guilt and fear by remaining in the present--enjoying the time they have left with their beloved companion.

The ICCVM will be held next year in Niagara Falls. All members of the team are encouraged to attend. In fact, I want to encourage support staff to attend so these concepts emerging in veterinary communication research can be applied to our practices in real life. By applying the lessons being learned, we can improve the profession for ourselves, our clients and our patients.

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