Hey new vet! Do you want to master communication?
But first....COFFEE. We do not know about y'all, but we need a healthy dose of coffee before we start our mornings.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
Our job is one where we need to be ON all the time. From the moment you walk in the door, you will be hit with questions from staff, client phone calls, back to back appointments, and more. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
One of the basics to communication is listening to your body. What do YOU need in order to be in the best shape for work? For some this is tied to sleep, diet, exercise, fun,
etc., BUT, there is something else. It is keeping track of your mental health and well being. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
You need to take care of yourself in order to be the best communicator. Figure out what this means for you. It took us time to get there, and we are both still putting an active effort into what works for us. Last month on our Instagram, we focused on mental health and how it should be a major priority in order to keep us happy and fulfilled in our career. In case you missed it, check out our blog here with tons of tips because we know that you have a lot on your plate as a veterinarian.
The one thing that always turns our frowns upside down is seeing our patients.
There is nothing better than entering a room to a sweet cat rubbing its face on you or a puppy running up to you excitedly. This moment is what keeps us on track when a day has started to feel like we are reaching a breaking point of stress or anxiety.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
One of the most common reasons for poor communication is internal stress. We know that when the pressure we put on ourselves starts building from the day, our mental state is going to be affected. We have found that in these moments we can become frustrated easily, negative, and short. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
Communication is challenged when we hit that "downward spiral" we talked about last month. So, here are some tips from Dr. Gray that she uses to pull herself out when she can see her communication is starting to suffer. ⠀⠀
Some tips on how to improve your communication under pressure:⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
Hit your RESET BUTTON. This means I do what I need to do to feel better and move on. Yes, you may have three clients waiting to talk to you or two staff members that need a question answered. On top of that, you are expected to go from a puppy visit to a dying senior pet to a planned euthanasia to a phone call with a client who likes to talk for 15 minutes. These are just small examples of a part of a day. You will get to them. Take that moment to yourself. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
My reset button means going to the bathroom to take a few deep breaths, walking outside for a moment, or even simply acknowledging out loud that I am stressed. If I feel that I have had an "off communication," I will go to that person and apologize. These are small things that help me reset when I need it. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀]⠀⠀⠀⠀
On my drive home, I will reflect on the day and let everything go. It really does help to hash out the day with yourself and reflect on what you can do differently next time. It helps me to talk through any difficult situations from the day so that I can learn from them and come up with what I can do differently next time. I have gotten better about leaving work "at work" and using my off time to decompress and relax.
You will see that we always come back to this topic. Mental health. It is an area we should always work on, and it will be exactly what helps us to survive these hectic days!
Do you find this surprising that more than a third of negative reviews are centered around this? We don't. Why? Let's start with a quote by Maya Angelou.
“People will forget what you said. People will forget what you did. But people will never forget how you made them feel.”⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
This statistic came from a report by Search Business Group that outlined the top 10 reasons California vet hospitals were getting bad reviews. Veterinarian's Money Digest put together an article about this and summarized the most common complaints as a lack of communication skills, being (or seeming) uncaring and uninterested in patients, rushing appointments, and making incorrect diagnoses. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
How do you prevent these bad reviews? Well, they still center around the fundamentals of communication. Empathy for your client and patient will win out every time. No matter the situation or how you are feeling, ensure that you are using appropriate verbal and nonverbal communication skills. If you feel that things are not going smoothly, step back and take a different approach. Ask the client what they want? What are their goals for the visit?
Another important thing to remember is that YOU control the vibe in your exam room. Not the nurse, not the client - it is you.
No pressure. But you are the one they are relying on for guidance in there.
Your mood, your focus, and your ability to communicate will all impact your client's experience.
Often, we are communicating to owners that are overwhelmed, emotional, and not at their best.
Learning how to keep communication simple and effective becomes imperative during times like these.
After empathy, which we discussed last week, there are two things Monica finds helpful in communicating to an overwhelmed owner who wants to do the right thing.
1- ✅ Simplify the concept and
2- ✅ Provide clear options for moving forward.
Let’s use the example of explaining congestive heart failure to an overwhelmed owner.
“Hi Mrs. Jones, Xrays are back and they show some evidence of fluid building up in Fluffy’s lungs (simple) making it difficult for her to breathe well. This is likely due to her bad heart (simple). I’d like to discuss 2 treatment options starting with the one I recommend the most because I am pretty worried about her...“ ✅⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
But, what if we said this instead?
“Hi Mrs. Jones, Xrays are back and they show a very big left side of Fluffy’s heart (No) and evidence of congestive heart failure or fluid building in her lungs likely secondary to her existing heart disease from the diseased valves in her heart (no). All of this is responsible for the congestive heart failure she’s experiencing....and I’d like to begin treatment..." ❌
In the second example, we give a lot of info that may overwhelm the owner. None of it is wrong. But by focusing the owner and keeping it simple, we provide more clarity for owners with decisions and better medicine for our patients! 🙌
We want to leave you with this statistic to really hone in why prioritizing communication skills is SO important.
Remember this statistic, and forever work on your communication skills. Keep reflecting and growing. Do not accept that you are a good communicator. Instead, always strive to be an excellent communicator. 𝕋𝕙𝕖 𝕤𝕖𝕔𝕣𝕖𝕥 𝕥𝕠 𝕚𝕥 𝕒𝕝𝕝 𝕚𝕤 𝕥𝕠 𝕡𝕖𝕣𝕗𝕖𝕔𝕥 𝕪𝕠𝕦𝕣 𝕔𝕝𝕚𝕖𝕟𝕥 𝕤𝕖𝕣𝕧𝕚𝕔𝕖. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
➳ Ask for constructive feedback from your veterinary peers.
➳ Record and watch yourself.
➳ Read books.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
➳ Listen to podcasts or attend conferences that focus on soft skills like communication. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
➳ Watch and learn from others who you respect in the field. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
Perfect what worked, and learn from what did not work. And, get excited for our next blog, which centers around 𝕔𝕣𝕖𝕒𝕥𝕚𝕟𝕘 𝕒𝕟 𝕒𝕞𝕒𝕫𝕚𝕟𝕘 𝕡𝕖𝕥-𝕡𝕒𝕣𝕖𝕟𝕥 𝕖𝕩𝕡𝕖𝕣𝕚𝕖𝕟𝕔𝕖!