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Communication skills vital to vet profession

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Francesca Carey with puppy patient, Valentino (named for his heart-shaped spot), who has pulmonic stenosis and recently had balloon valvuloplasty.

Unless your veterinarian is Dr. Doolittle, she can’t really talk with the cat in the exam room to find out why he’s stopped eating and has no energy. That’s why strong communication skills with pet owners are critical to ensure a high quality of care for the animals that veterinarians treat. 

Francesca Carey, a 2013 DVM graduate from the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, was recognized this spring for her outstanding communication skills with a scholarship award presented by Bayer Healthcare for “excellence in client communication.” 

“Communication is vital to our profession,” Carey said. “When our clients feel listened to, it opens up channels of trust.”

Bayer HealthCare Animal Health launched the award program this year to highlight the importance of effective client communication in veterinary practices, and to reward veterinary students who are mastering this critical skill.

In its inaugural year, seven leading veterinary schools were selected by Bayer HealthCare to pilot the award program. The competition included submission of a filmed interview in a clinical setting between the veterinary student and a client. Entries submitted at each school were evaluated by a panel of faculty judges. 

At UC Davis, Drs. Jim Clark, Tom Kendall, Julie Meadows and Tammy Pierce served on the panel and selected Carey after viewing videos of students working in Community Medicine during their rotations, and using a scorecard developed by nationally-renowned veterinary faculty who specialize in communication. (The students are routinely filmed to help in the teaching process.) 

“The award came as a complete surprise,” Carey said. “There are a lot of people in my class who are great communicators and to be recognized by these veterinarians that I respect was truly humbling.”