Coaching and feedback: enhancing communication teaching and learning in veterinary practice settings.J Vet Med Educ. 2012 Fall; 39(3):217-28.JV
Communication is a critical clinical skill closely linked to clinical reasoning, medical problem solving, and significant outcomes of care such as accuracy, efficiency, supportiveness, adherence to treatment plans, and client and veterinarian satisfaction. More than 40 years of research on communication and communication education in human medicine and, more recently, in veterinary medicine provide a substantive rationale for formal communication teaching in veterinary education. As a result, veterinary schools are beginning to invest in communication training. However, if communication training is to result in development of veterinary communication skills to a professional level of competence, there must be follow-through with effective communication modeling and coaching in practice settings. The purpose of this article is to move the communication modeling and coaching done in the "real world" of clinical practice to the next level. The development of skills for communication coaching and feedback is demanding. We begin by comparing communication coaching with what is required for teaching other clinical skills in practice settings. Examining both, what it takes to teach others (whether DVM students or veterinarians in practice for several years) and what it takes to enhance one's own communication skills and capacities, we consider the why, what, and how of communication coaching. We describe the use of teaching instruments to structure this work and give particular attention to how to engage in feedback sessions, since these elements are so critical in communication teaching and learning. We consider the preconditions necessary to initiate and sustain communication skills training in practice, including the need for a safe and supportive environment within which to implement communication coaching and feedback. Finally we discuss the challenges and opportunities unique to coaching and to building and delivering communication skills training in practice settings.