Centre for Evidence-based Veterinary Medicine

Veterinarian-client-patient communication

Veterinary-client-patient communication is being increasingly recognised as a core clinicalskill for veterinarians.  Effective, client-centred communication has been shown to positivelyinfluence client satisfaction and is thought to be a contributing factor in the quality of care.  The aim of this research is to investigate the current state of veterinary communication skills and training, the perceived importance for pet owners of veterinary surgeon-client communication, and the factors impacting communication during a consultation including complexity, alignment with consultation models, biomedical versus psychosocial dialogue content, client/relationship-centredness, and client satisfaction.

Key findings to date:

  • Communication skills were perceived to be as important as, or more important than, clinical knowledge by 98% of veterinary surgeon respondents to a survey
  • Despite this, only 40% were interested in further communication training
    • This gap may be alleviated to some degree by increasing employer support for communication training, offering communication training in a number of formats, and ensuring that content is match to real-world challenges
  • Veterinary consultations are complex and require practitioners to manage discussion of multiple topics within a limited period of time
  • Veterinary communication during a consultation evidences most elements of the Calgary-Cambridge Communication Model, but in a very iterative fashion with continuous movement among model elements throughout the consultation
  • Veterinary communication as measured in the above mentioned study is characterised by many attributes of client-centred communication but there is room for improvement in expressing empathy and eliciting client opinions and feelings
  • Client satisfaction in the study was high but slightly less so regarding cost discussions and solicitation of the client’s point of view


Mickey McDermott, Rachel Dean, Malcolm Cobb, and Iain Robbé


  • McDermott M, Dean R, Tischler V (2011). Veterinarian-Client-Patient communication:
    Current state, relevance, and opportunities for improvement. Poster Presented at the 2011International Conference on Communication in Veterinary Medicine (ICCVM), 2-5 October,2011, Niagara on the Lake, Ontario, Canada.
  • McDermott M, Tischler V, Robbe, I, and Dean, RS, 2015. Veterinarian–client communication skills:
    Current state, relevance, and opportunities for improvement. Journal of Veterinary Medical Education, 42, 305-314. 
  • McDermott M, Tischler V, Robbe, I, and Dean, RS, 2015, 2017. Evaluating veterinary practitioner perceptions of communication skills and training. Veterinary Record, 180, 305.

Centre for Evidence-based Veterinary Medicine

School of Veterinary Medicine and Science
University of Nottingham, Sutton Bonington Campus
Leicestershire, LE12 5RD

Tel: +44 (0) 115 951 6576
Fax: +44 (0) 115 951 6415
Email: CEVM@nottingham.ac.uk