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Five communication mistakes we make with clients without even realising...

We communicate all the time, right? Speaking to each other is simple, right?

Then why, oh why, can we get it so wrong? Because communication in healthcare is a skill, and one that you can work on everyday.

Here are 5 common mistakes we make in the clinic without even knowing it.

1. Interrupting. You have less than 30 seconds to speak to your GP before they interrupt you – and we as vets and nurses have the tendency to do the same. This leads to a client not having the opportunity to share what they need to, and feeling like they didn’t get to share their story. You’ve asked a question, now listen to the answer fully before asking the next one!

2. Not (appearing to be) listening. You may think you are, but if you find that someone repeats the same thing to you, then they feel like you have not heard them. Try repeating their words back, or acknowledging they are bringing up something they have mentioned before (and that your heard it).

3. Asking closed questions. This is a huge one in the veterinary field as we have a limited amount of time during a consultation or admission and want to get to the answer as soon as possible: Is he vomiting? Is she eating and drinking normally? These closed questions limit the amount of information that you’re getting from your client and can actually increase the amount of time to get the information you want. Try a few open-ended questions: How is she feeling? What brings you here today? Do this before narrowing the field of query down.

4. Not paying attention to body language. A picture paints a thousand words: does the client have an open, or closed stance? Are they relaxed? Are they looking at you? Chances are, their body language may be telling you something you should be listening to.

5. Not being present. Mindfulness is such a buzz word right now – and for good reason. Being elsewhere in your head does your current client no favours, nor your concentration, or ability to process information. On a yet another busy, fraught day - before welcoming in the next consultation - take a deep breath, look around, and be here.

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