Art of communication - DVM
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Art of communication
Outline skills to establish future success in veterinary careers


Preparing to communicate

When it comes to communication patterns, many veterinary practices now employ a team approach. Employees are organized into teams that carry out the functions of the practice and communicate those functions, rather than having one leader directing matters. Learn to be comfortable in either situation.

The right time and place for communication also is important. Consider your relationship with the person you want to communicate with. Are you asking for a raise or trying to settle a difference? Is it an emergency? When is an answer expected?

Preparation is important, since economics of the practice play a role. Depending on the structure of your practice's client appointment scheduling, there will be a time limit on your ability to communicate with them. You will be expected by your employer and clients to work within certain time constrictions. You must be able to understand how much of your time with clients is costing the client and the practice owner. Your income might directly be connected to the amount of money you can produce for the practice and proportionate to the number of cases you can see in a given time. Likewise, the time you will have to communicate with the client will be compromised. This subject should be an important part of your mentoring program in your first practice position.

Avoiding communication conflict

Successful communication depends on your awareness of the communication and personality styles of your audience.

Some practices will carry out personality profiling to help determine how best to communicate with certain individuals.

Learning styles play a role, too. Knowing and understanding your client will help you determine whether to instruct in a visual, verbal or story-telling manner to explain various conditions or treatments, if such use would be helpful.

Be careful not to use too much medical jargon. Try not to talk down to your client by using medical terms he or she might not understand.

Understand and develop the environment for effective communication by taking in consideration the room, noise, distractions, lighting, moods, seating and temperature. Your practice's environment should be conducive to good communication. Answering telephone calls or questions from other staff while you are trying to communicate with a client can be difficult. This is especially true if the situation you are dealing with is emotional.

Try to ensure that the person you are communicating with understands your message. Solicit feedback and try to understand their verbal and nonverbal responses.

If your communication situation involves writing, know your reader. You might be writing for multiple readers with different levels of communication needs.

Use of communication principles

1. Negotiation. This will play a major role in communications with your clients and staff members. Successful negotiations require proper timing and developing trust and rapport with the other parties. Being honest and trusting others helps reduce unnecessary conflict and increases the potential for collaboration and agreement.

2. Problem solving. Whether your practice uses a team or individual approach will determine your role.

3. Conflict resolution and/or management. Resolving conflict will be a major test of your communication skills. Conflict is part of life. Avoiding it can cause additional conflict that is unnecessary and painful. Conflict is healthy when you engage in it to reach a collaborative agreement or new alternative. It becomes unhealthy when it is used to vent frustrations and fears or to control others or the situation.

4. Record keeping. Understanding the importance of and use of medical records for business, diagnostic and legal defense reasons, research records and financial records.

5. Marketing materials. This consists of writing and publishing practice newsletters, client info sheets and other publications.

6. Private practice applications. Grief counseling, communicating in emotionally charged settings, discussing money matters with clients are all special situations requiring communication skills.

7. Education. Either as a presenter or learner, you will continue your education forever. As a presenter, you need excellent communication skills to deliver your message so your audience understands it. As a student, the value of what is being presented will depend on your ability to read or listen to the message and understand it.


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