University of Calgary

Crash Course

Cindy Adams is currently researching the impact of veterinarian-to-pet talk. / Photo: courtesy Cindy Adams
Cindy Adams is currently researching the impact of veterinarian-to-pet talk. / Photo: courtesy Cindy Adams

Veterinary Medicine 307—Professional Skills

Having knowledge of animal care and health is obviously crucial to being a competent veterinarian, but the development of clinical communication skills is also becoming a teaching priority at veterinary schools around the world.

“To have the skills to work on teams and achieve mutually agreed upon goals is very important,” says Cindy Adams, the chair of Veterinary Medicine 307—Professional Skills at the University of Calgary. “You cannot do good medicine without good communication skills. The evidence is too deep and compelling to refute.”

Veterinary Medicine 307 is a learner-directed course organized into four streams: communication; ethical practices; business acumen; and research and information management. Along with Adams, the course is taught by seven others: Jay Cross, Kent Hecker, David Hall, Marianna Hofmeister, Douglas Jack, John Tait and Lorraine Toews. In addition, more than 17 faculty members and community veterinarians facilitate small groups within this course.

Adams teaches the clinical communication portion. One way her students learn is by interacting with simulated clients—people trained to pose as clients and colleagues. Though common in medical faculties, it is still rare in veterinary medicine classrooms.

“Back when I was teaching in Ontario, I got a newsletter talking about the work Dr. Suzanne Kurtz was doing with simulated patients,” said Adams. “So in 2004, I flew out to see it for myself and immediately saw the application to veterinary medicine.”

Adams is currently researching the impact of veterinarian-to-pet talk. According to her research, the interaction the veterinarian directs towards the animal has a huge impact on client satisfaction.

— Meghan Sired