The Importance of Communication as a Vet Tech

Published on November 4, 2019 by arothstein

Vet tech practices communication skills with pet owner

Choosing to become a Veterinary Technician as a career path allows an animal lover to provide skilled nursing care for a variety of animals and to learn about new techniques in veterinary medicine. Pet owners have high expectations when it comes to the care of their pets, and vet techs must be able to use their communication skills to relay this. As a result, they expect their pets to receive the same quality of care as anyone else in their family.

Because of the important role that a vet tech plays in the clinic, communication skills with clients are important to ensure that all animals get the appropriate care. Great communication skills include empathy, paraphrasing, active listening skills and non-verbal communication.

What A Vet Tech Does

First of all, a veterinary technician is an important asset in the veterinary medicine world. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that more than 90 percent of all vet techs work in private practice. The vet tech works directly under the supervision of a veterinarian.

A veterinary technician performs the following duties:

Cleaning and Sterilization

Besides assisting in the care of animals, a vet tech must also clean up kennel areas and examining rooms. A vet tech maintains treatment, lab, and research records and ensures that records are appropriately filed. The vet tech must also know how to handle operations at the reception desk, receive payments, and sell products from pet suppliers.

Helping Train Others

The vet tech is also often the person responsible for training new team members. One of the essential skills for a vet tech when dealing with pet owners and team members is communication.

What Is Communication?

Communication transfers information from one person, group, or place to another. Communication involves a sender, a recipient, and a message. Although it may sound simple, communication can also be complex depending on the situation.

Transmitting a message from a sender to a recipient can be affected by many variables including:

Because communication can be a complex subject, it is important than all vet techs have excellent communication skills. In addition to this skill, clarity helps to reinforce important messages. Clarity is important because the recipient can decode the information and take the appropriate steps.

Communication is Constant

There are a variety of ways in which people communicate, and more than one form of communication may be going on at the same time. When there’s more than one recipient of a message, each person may have a different interpretation of what they’re reading or hearing.

Word Choice

Because of this, word choice in communication is important so that everyone understands the the meaning. In face-to-face communication with two people speaking to each other, the roles of the sender and recipient aren’t as distinct as in a written message.

Delivery is Important

Face-to-face communication allows people to convey their thoughts through body language and eye contact. Because of this, the roles consistently pass back and forth between the two people carrying on the conversation.

Categories of Communication:

Verbal Communication

Verbal communication uses words to share information with an individual or a group. The communication is either spoken or written. Clarity is especially important in verbal communication, because it also relies heavily on the word choice.

Written Communication

Written communication skills can also make a positive impact on others if you know how to use them. One example to practice good written communication is to write short, concise sentences. When your message is clear, it’s easier for everyone to understand what you’re saying.

Non-Verbal Communication

Non-verbal communication can also convey a lot to the recipient by the use of the tone of voice, facial expressions, body language, and the distance between the parties. Additionally, this form of communication also modifies or reinforces the words said to convey a message. Because of this, the non-verbal communication can either reinforce or contradict the verbal message.

Body Language

One of the essential non-verbal skills between two people is body language. For example, body language includes making eye contact, smiling, and gestures. The appropriate body language can make someone feel welcome, however the wrong body language can make people feel uncomfortable.

Furthermore, nodding and smiling indicates to the speaker that you’re listening. Regulate the flow of communication by nodding when you understand the message. If you want to talk, make eye contact with the speaker and use a hand gesture to indicate you have something to say.

Visual communication serves two purposes:

1. It makes verbal communication more meaningful and more comfortable to understand

2. It helps the recipient(s) of the message retain the information and holds their interest

For example, graphs and pictures help people to retain information more effectively. The more people involved in a meeting or discussion, the less opportunity there is for a one-on-one conversation and visuals help.

What Is Active Listening?

Active listening is a technique different from reflective listening. Reflective listening requires the listener to repeat back to the speaker what they have just heard. Active listening requires that the person speaking to:

How Does Active Listening Assist with Communication?

We often forget that what we hear is as important as what we say. Excellent active listening skills make communication more relaxed and can minimize misunderstandings based on what we think we hear.

First of all, one of the most critical skills for a vet tech to have is the ability to listen and comprehend what’s said. This is especially important because the vet tech is the person that a client and their pet see first when they arrive for an appointment. The veterinary technician also does the initial assessment and may also provide emergency first aid if necessary.

Because of the important role a vet tech plays, it is important for the animal that the vet tech also listens and comprehends everything that’s said. Although veterinary practices are often hectic, listening and comprehending information is necessary for the veterinarian to make a diagnosis.

How to Communicate with Pet Owners and Colleagues

When a client arrives at a veterinary practice with their pet for an emergency, it’s tempting to respond quickly without listening to all their concerns. Another issue is that the vet tech may offer reassurance before they know all the facts.

Communication Can Be As Important As the Diagnosis

A lot of clients feel that the interpersonal skills of the veterinarian and their staff are as important as the diagnosis. For this reason, interpersonal and communication skills can save a pet’s life. Good interaction with the veterinarians and vet techs also increases a client’s comfort level and makes them more likely to continue to take their pet to that practice.

Silence and Body Language

Even more, silence and body language are a part of excellent listening skills. For example, knowing when to talk and when to pause is critical. Clients want to know that they are being listened to. When a client has concerns about their pet, letting them talk and making eye contact enables the client to know that you share their concerns.

Paraphrasing Shows Your Listening Skills

Paraphrasing what the client has said is an excellent way to be sure you haven’t missed any crucial details and understand their concerns.

Repeating critical information is important to get a clear picture of the situation. For example, you may repeat back that a pet has experienced vomiting for the last few days when going over additional symptoms. Paraphrasing may also lead to new information being divulged by the pet owner.

Empathy in Vet Tech Communication

Client empathy is one of the most essential communication skills for a vet tech. When a pet is in distress, it is also likely that the owner is, too. People who usually exhibit a calm demeanor may also be very different when their pet isn’t well.

Unfortunately, some clients may take out their frustration on the vet tech who is trying to get information to pass on to the veterinarian. As difficult as situations like this may be, the vet tech should always show empathy for their clients. One way to relieve the tension is to draw them out and allow them to voice their concerns.

Why All Veterinary Teams Need Active Listening Skills

Active listening is essential whenever a vet tech is talking to colleagues. For example, someone may have a concern about an animal’s medical problem or dealing with a client. Because of this, taking the time to listen to what other team members are saying is beneficial to everyone in the practice in the long run. Actively listening to a colleague’s concerns may also provide you with a solution to their problem.

The Goal of Effective Communication

The ultimate goal of communication is that there’s a mutual understanding among all parties. The person who communicates the message must be able to convey their message to fit the audience. An excellent example of effective communication is that a vet tech talking to colleagues about a medical matter. In this case, the vet tech would use different terminology with their peers than if they were talking to a pet owner.

The sender of the message should always seek feedback from the recipient(s) to make sure that everyone involved clearly understands the message, so there isn’t any confusion or misunderstanding.

Effective Techniques in Conveying a Message

The receivers of a message can use techniques like clarification or reflection to make sure that the message that was sent has been understood correctly by all parties.

Clarification Ensures the Listener Understands the Message

When a message is delivered, the recipient can clarify the meaning by repeating back to the sender the information as they understand it. Not only odes this ensure that the listener understands the message, but it also allows them to resolve any misunderstandings.

Most importantly, clarification is essential in stressful or emotional situations at veterinary clinics. No matter the diagnosis, clear communication ensures that the pet owner has the information they need to seek the best care for their pet.

How Veterinary Technicians Use Clarification

Emotional situations are trying for a pet parent, but the staff at the veterinary clinic as well. Another situation in which clarification is essential is when a veterinarian is giving complex instructions or information to the vet tech about a difficult case.

A vet tech may think they have excellent listening skills, but the only person that can make that determination is the person conveying the message. For this reason, vet techs must possess the ability to reflect words and clarify that they understand the meaning of what is being conveyed.

Want to Learn More?

Did learning about the importance of communication for vet techs interest you? Ready to start a program to become a veterinary technician? With an associate degree in veterinary technology, you’ll gain the knowledge and skills you need to start an entry-level career as a veterinary technician. Broadview University has been part of the community for more than 40 years, so we’ve developed connections that can help move your career forward. After completing our accredited degree program, you’ll be eligible to sit for the Veterinary Technician National Exam (VTNE). Passing the VTNE allows you to become a Certified Veterinary Technician (CVT), a designation that will give you a competitive advantage when you enter the job market.

Contact us today to learn more about becoming a veterinary technician and working in veterinary technology.

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