A role play class with professional actors brought in to help out would be commonplace on a course such as drama, and may sound a little odd for veterinary medicine. But is it really?
Communication is a vital part of being a vet and can often be the “make or break” factor for client satisfaction. Often, owners won’t have any concept of your surgical skills or medical knowledge, but they will know instantly whether they trust their animals in your care within minutes of meeting you simply from the way you communicate.
The class uses realistic scenarios with different types of “client” (the actors) that we are likely to come across in practice. These involved breaking the news that a pet has to be euthanised, dealing with tight horse owners that just think you’re trying to rip them off, and discussing alternative treatments for someone struggling to tablet their cat.
Sometimes, it can be difficult if you don’t know enough about the condition the animals has in your scenario, but the important thing is how you convey the information, not necessarily the content of what you are saying.
On the whole, the students got stuck in and enjoyed themselves. It was interesting to see how different students took different angles on the same scenario, proving there isn’t just one way to communicate effectively. The actors and supervising vet also gave us pointers on body language and tone of voice.
Years ago, veterinary graduates were thrown into practice with very limited guidance on communication, which must have been terrifying. The interactive sessions give us the chance to make mistakes in an artificial environment, so that we (hopefully) won’t make them in the real world.
I found the session incredibly helpful and think that communication is an immensely important skill to develop in order to give us the best chance at getting on with our clients in the future. Sessions like this should become a fundamental component of any veterinary course.