Stiftung Tierärztliche Hochschule Hannover (TiHo)

Motivation and experience matters : What veterinary mentors think about learning communication skills: a qualitative study

Communication skills are a core competence in veterinary medicine. These skills play a pivotal role in professional success in the animal health professions. Over the last few decades, there has been an increased focus on communication skills in veterinary curricula. Conversely, we know less about the knowledge and motivation behind the communication skills of those veterinarians in different work domains who are acting as mentors outside the university. In 2016, semi-structured interviews (n = 16) were conducted with German practitioners in workplaces ranging from companion to farm animal practice, and throughout the veterinary industry, veterinary research, and government service. We combined two qualitative methods: a thematic analysis approach and the generation of types to identify characteristics associated with the acquisition of communication skills. In the current study, three main themes were developed: "Motivation," "Experiences with the acquisition of communication skills," and "Communication skills training during formal education." Within the identified themes, we recognized three types of communicators: "self-experienced," "extrinsic-experienced," and "unexperienced." We found that acquisition of communication skills was closely linked to motivation; therefore, motivation must be considered when developing communication skills curricula for learners and educators. By extrapolating the findings of this explorative study, we determined that intrinsically motivated mentors from the field should be a main source of veterinary education to promote further development in communication training. This qualitative study also determined that most non-university veterinary mentors had only a basic knowledge of teaching and learning communication skills, leading us to recommend formal training. Interchange between practicing veterinarians and veterinary educators and curriculum coordinators can foster relevant curricular modifications.

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