Prefer talking to your patients than their owners? Dr Sandra Nguyen can help!

Prefer talking to your patients than their owners??? You are certainly not alone!

Dr Sandra Nguyen will be leading VetTalk, the online course which will help you become more confident in your ability to communicate well with your clients.

Dr Sandra Nguyen achieved Diplomate status of the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine in Oncology in 2010, but for many years prior to this enjoyed communicating well with pet owners. This passion for effective communication existed as early as during her high school years; one of her favourite subjects was drama, and if she hadn’t become a veterinarian she probably would have tried to become an extra on Neighbours! She became actively involved in the formal process of teaching these skills when working at Ohio State University.

I spoke to Sandra to learn more about her thoughts on this often-ignored skill that is an essential tool in day to day veterinary practice.

At what point of your veterinary career did you realise the importance of communication in veterinary practice? Was it a particular clinical case that prompted you to undergo special training in communication?

I realised when I was working in vet clinics even before university that I didn’t just love the animals, I loved the people that came with them too. I like hearing their story, and being a part of the connection they have with their pet. I didn’t realise communication was actually a thing until after my residency training at Cornell, and I’d started work on faculty at the Ohio State University. They were actually teaching their students core communication skills within the veterinary course and building a foundation of knowledge around communication. All I had seen before was learning through experience, other’s experiences, and role play.

I could see the enormous benefit that understanding communication had for our clients at OSU in terms of their understanding and trust, and how this transferred a benefit to the patient. The students were also much better equipped to deal with those tough conversations we have to have so often in practice, which has made me realise that communication is also a vital part of a vet’s job satisfaction.

In your opinion, do undergraduate vet students receive adequate training in communication before entering the workforce as veterinarians? What advice would you give recent graduates who feel their communication skills need improvement?

The training has improved immensely over the last decade, but I think the impact that communication has on our daily lives is still underestimated.

Communication should be considered another clinical skill we develop. And like with any other clinical skill, reading, attending CE, practise and then adjusting from feedback on the outcome is the best way to improve your communication.

In your opinion, what makes a great workplace?

Collegiality is a big one for me: where we are all united in a common purpose, and respect each other’s abilities to work toward that purpose.

Our jobs can be both incredibly rewarding and stressful – the highs are high, and the lows are low. A great work place is one where that stress can be shared and minimised and the highs can be celebrated and expanded.

Thanks Sandra, for sharing your insights into the benefits of effective communication in the veterinary profession. Why not invest a little time in improving your communication skills, by enrolling in the VetTalk online course commencing July 24th. Register TODAY or view the brochure for more information.

Contact information:, 0481458361

Written by Dr Alison Caiafa

Five Communication Mistakes We Make With Clients Without Even Realising

We communicate all the time, right? Speaking to each other is simple, right? Then why, oh why, can some of our conversations go so wrong? Because communication in healthcare is a skill, and one that you can work on everyday.

Here are 5 common mistakes we make in the clinic without even knowing it.

1. Interrupting. You have less than 30 seconds to speak to your GP before they interrupt you – and we as vets and nurses have the tendency to do the same. This leads to a client not having the opportunity to share what they need to, and feeling like they didn’t get to share their story. You’ve asked a question, now listen to the answer fully before asking the next one!

2. Not (appearing to be) listening. You may think you are, but if you find that someone repeats the same thing to you, then they feel like you have not heard them. Try repeating their words back, or acknowledging they are bringing up something they have mentioned before (and that your heard it).

3. Asking closed questions. This is a huge one in the veterinary field as we have a limited amount of time during a consultation or admission and want to get to the answer as soon as possible: Is he vomiting? Is she eating and drinking normally? These closed questions limit the amount of information that you’re getting from your client and can actually increase the amount of time to get the information you want. Try a few open-ended questions: How is she feeling? What brings you here today? Do this before narrowing the field of query down.

4. Not paying attention to body language. A picture paints a thousand words: does the client have an open, or closed stance? Are they relaxed? Are they looking at you? Chances are, their body language may be telling you something you should be listening to.

5. Not being present. Mindfulness is such a buzz word right now – and for good reason. Being elsewhere in your head does your current client no favours, nor your concentration, or ability to process information. On a yet another busy, fraught day – before welcoming in the next consultation – take a deep breath, look around, and be here.

Your communication skills are good, but they can be excellent. Come join Dr Sandra Nguyen for the VetTalk workshop 12th of March and be excellent. Register TODAY or view the brochure for more information.