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Veterinarian Technician June 2010 (Vol 31, No 6)

Guest Editorial: Providing Clear, Consistent Information to Clients

by Julie Legred, CVT

    Veterinary technicians are well aware of the zoonotic potential of certain diseases, but our clients may not be, so our duty is to give them the knowledge and know-how to keep their family members—human and nonhuman—as safe and healthy as possible. However, clients can become easily confused if the doctor, receptionist, and technician do not provide consistent information. Therefore, we need to develop clear protocols so that each team member delivers the same message to clients throughout their experience at the animal hospital.

    Do you remember the childhood game of telephone? One person creates a message and whispers it in someone’s ear. That person whispers it to someone else, and so on, until it gets to the last person, who tells everyone what he or she was told. The final message doesn’t usually sound anything like the original.

    Because our clients haven’t been formally trained in the concepts that we try to communicate to them, they can have a telephone-like experience if they hear inconsistent messages. However, if team members have the same message, clients hear it several times, increasing the likelihood that they will understand us and be compliant.

    Having a clear, standard protocol helps the entire team to feel confident and comfortable communicating information to clients. Once a protocol has been established, have a team meeting to discuss it and allow team members to practice communicating with each other. This can build confidence, provide positive feedback, and inspire suggestions for how everyone can deliver the same clear message to clients.

    The amount of information that clients receive in an animal hospital can be overwhelming. Train your team to deliver client messages slowly in a place where distractions are unlikely. Clients should be encouraged to ask questions during the conversation and to call or e-mail if they have questions later. A team member should follow up with clients 1 or 2 days after their visit. Clients should be told that the staff is available to help if they have any concerns in the future.

    Providing client handouts that are branded to your practice can help reinforce your message when clients get home. Clients may also share handouts with their families and friends.

    Delivering your message to your community is also beneficial. Elementary schools often provide opportunities for local professionals to speak to their students. Distributing brochures and client handouts at speaking engagements and public events can promote awareness of pet health issues and generate business for your hospital.

    A helpful resource is the Companion Animal Parasite Council (CAPC) Web site (www.capcvet.org), which includes the CAPC guidelines and other useful tools for the veterinary team, including downloadable brochures and handouts that are also available as reprints. In addition, watch for a new CAPC program for veterinary technicians.

    Your clients will appreciate your efforts to provide them with clear, consistent information.

    Downloadable PDF

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    These Care Guides are written to help your clients understand common conditions. They are formatted to print and give to your clients for their information.

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