Communication in veterinary advice
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The role of the veterinarian is changing and the importance of good communication skills is increasing. Amongst veterinarians, non-technical skills and knowledge has not been receiving a lot of attention. Knowledge and skills concerning marketing and communication are considered a weakness of veterinarian professionals. This research has taken general guidelines for advice and communication as a starting point for the analysis of 17 conversations between veterinarians and dairy farmers during consultancy in the north of The Netherlands. These guidelines include: offering structure in a conversation; having a balance in contribution of the client and the advisor; attention for personal views and preferences (‘Soft System’ aspects) and the use of the techniques ‘Listening, Resuming, Further questioning’ and formulating recommendations in a ‘Specific Measurable Acceptable Realistic and Time bound’ manner. Also, the personal opinions of the participating veterinarians and dairy farmers concerning farm consultancy and communication have been evaluated, based on results from questionnaires. The results show that some veterinarians consider their communication skills as a strength, while others call it a weakness. The analysis of the conversations show that, in general, they do not comply with the guidelines for advice. However, most dairy farmers are satisfied with farm consultancy. Conversations that are complying with the guidelines do tend to receive higher scores concerning farmers’ satisfaction, than those who are not following the guidelines. However, a conversation that is not complying with the guidelines is not per definition causing dissatisfaction.