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Articles and Comment

Webinar summary | Communication Skills in Veterinary Medicine


May 2023 | Articles and Comment | Communication | Discussion | EALTHY Blog | Language | Webinar summary | Webinars 2023

In the interview with Virginia, Ros describes her interesting experience of conversations with vets who work in different environments from small practices for pets, slaughterhouses to zoos. She presents situations and issues that the pet owners have to deal with and the types of interactions that the vets have with their clients and colleagues on a daily basis. Finally, Virginia and Ros discuss the aspects of the OET speaking exam for veterinary medicine.

It is obvious that there are many similarities between human and veterinary clinical practice. Ros points d out the human medical conditions which animals also suffer from: cancer, allergies, coughs, and toothache. She also mentions how the essential clinical communication skills are the same: showing empathy and reassurance, asking open questions, asking for consent to perform the examination, giving instructions for giving medication and not being judgemental. An interesting question was whether the pet owners googled the symptoms and conditions of their animal or sought help on Facebook forums. It comes as no surprise to find out that they do. There are however differences regarding approaches to euthanasia, financial aspects (high costs of treatment vs increasing costs of living), and the spoken negotiations between vet and client.

Regarding OET for veterinary professionals, the speaking test should take into consideration the communication situations specific for a particular environment. For example, vets in small practices should be trained in building rapport, decision making and offering a “spectrum of care”, i.e. giving a range of treatment options and negotiating what is the best for the animal (“advocating for the animal”) and also what the client can afford to pay.  On the other hand, communication between staff in a zoo is different. It is also of course clinically-oriented, but at the same time, it might be research-oriented. There is then a need for many different skills such as describing conditions and treatments, giving instructions to zookeepers, giving presentations at conferences, writing a paper, educating zookeepers and visitors about the animals, and so on. However, vets in slaughterhouses have little communication about the health condition of livestock or indeed with other vets. Their talks with their colleagues are often very short, focused on giving instructions, sharing information about the welfare of livestock, and checking processes and quality against UK and EU standards.

To sum up, there are teaching resources for human-oriented medical practice and these can be adapted to the needs of veterinary science. But at the same time, there are many challenges for OET test-makers and candidates, which should be discussed and addressed.


Watch the webinar to learn more about this fascinating area of medical terminology and communication skills.


Further resources
For more information on the role of communication, you can read the research by Jack K. H. Pun (2020): An integrated review of the role of communication in veterinary clinical practice
For teaching materials, you can study the following resources:
Gray C., Moffett J. (2010): Handbook of Veterinary Communication Skills
Adams, S L, Kurtz S (2016): Skills for Communicating in Veterinary Medicine
For information on OET for veterinary medicine, go to:
Official OET Practice Book for veterinary science
Online OET Course for Veterinary Science