Comprehensive communications training program underway at UFVH
By Sarah Carey
A comprehensive new training program offered by Bayer Animal Health and the Institute for Health Care Communication is underway at the UF Veterinary Hospitals, offering an unprecedented approach to building competence in areas ranging from compassion fatigue and conflict management to subjects such as money in the veterinary client relationship and skills for sharing bad news.
Never before will so many aspects of communications training have been offered to so many groups or integrated into the veterinary curricula, college administrators said.
Dr. Dana Zimmel, UFVH chief of staff, earmarked hospital funding to provide training to three faculty members, Drs. Amanda House, Chris Sanchez and Amy Stone, all faculty members of the UF College of Veterinary Medicine. Those faculty members spent a week in Connecticut to become more familiar with the methods, opportunities and resources for teaching and facilitating communication skills at their home institution, and have since been in the process of implementing the plan at UF.
The program specifically addresses gaps in communication skills training within schools of veterinary medicine and in the practice community. A grant to IHC from Bayer in 2002 expanded the institute’s existing program, which had been aimed at clinicians and health care team members in human medicine, to include the field of veterinary medicine. Since then, some 303 faculty members from 38 schools of veterinary medicine and technology in the United States, Canada, Australia and Portugal have received the training.
Since 2005, due to strong interest from the veterinary community, a competitive application process was implemented to ensure that integration of the training would be included in the curricula of colleges with faculty members chosen to participate.
“For over a year, I searched for a program that would help key groups in our college improve their communications skills,” Zimmel said. “Several options, including a communications program offered through the Mayo Clinic, were investigated.”
The Bayer project was appealing because it was focused on veterinary medicine and incorporated all levels of learning, from students to faculty, Zimmel said.
“In addition, they have developed modules that can be easily repeated at home,” she said.
A few universities now have 15-20 faculty members trained in the Bayer program techniques.
“I think this program provides the best opportunity to improve our collective communications skills,” Zimmel said, adding that she hopes to send one or two faculty members from UF each year to the training in order to increase the number of those trained to deliver the information to all stakeholders of the college.
House officers were the first group at UF to receive the training, with a series of lectures given in the summer. Lecture topics included Getting the Story, Non-Verbal Communication and Elephant in the Room: Money in the Veterinary Client Relationship.
Faculty received a lecture in Medical Errors in September, and hospital staff lectures began Nov. 16 on the topic of Compassion Fatigue. Future lectures are planned for January 25 and May 17 on the subjects of Building Trust and Clear the Air – Managing Conflict for Veterinary Teams.
Students will received several lectures as part of three different courses, with topics built into their Veterinary Business and Professional Development course, the Veterinary Business Management course and the Clinical Techniques course (Small Animal).
All of the lectures have been adapted to reflect the content of specific Bayer Modules.
“We are enthusiastic about incorporating an evidence-based communication training program for students, house officers, faculty and staff,” House said. “Excellent communication skills benefit us all, not only in the hospital environment with our clients and referring veterinarians, but also in our working and personal relationships.”