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    PDSA collaboration enriches vet students’ client communication skills

    15 March 2024

    A collaboration with the UK’s leading vet charity PDSA will offer students at the Harper & Keele Veterinary School the opportunity to develop their communication skills in an authentic setting whilst also understanding the importance of client relations, and the pivotal role veterinary receptionists have in that context. 

    PDSA has been taking care of pets in need for more than 100 years. The charity operates 49 Pet Hospitals across the UK, supporting owners who can’t afford the full cost of their veterinary treatment. A leading authority on pet health, they also work in schools and communities to raise awareness and educate the public on key issues that affect the nation’s pet population. 

    A fundamental part of becoming a veterinary surgeon is developing excellent client communication skills. Throughout their five-year Veterinary Medicine and Surgery degree, students have several opportunities to develop these skills via a series of activities, including peer-to-peer role play and scenario-based simulation. One unique activity, created collaboratively by PDSA and Vet School, gives second year students the chance to communicate directly with PDSA clients in a fully supported environment.   

    Using PDSA’s diary and phone systems students work as a veterinary receptionist to contact clients, arranging an appropriate appointment for their pet’s consultation. Rather than discussing case management the focus is on building rapport and delivering information in a clear, professional manner.   

    Throughout the call, a member of PDSA’s team is on hand to support the students, and university academics help to facilitate peer learning, providing constructive feedback and discussing positive points to support learning.  

    Mike Cathcart, Director of Veterinary Education at Harper & Keele Veterinary School, pioneered this format of student workshop following the pandemic, when remote consultations became common place in veterinary practice.  

    Mike said: “PDSA has an outstanding reputation for supporting veterinary education, providing high quality clinical placements for hundreds of veterinary students from across the UK, but it was their early adoption of telemedicine and introduction of innovative client management solutions which allowed us to integrate this excellent learning opportunity into our pre-clinical programme, giving students a unique opportunity to interact with real clients early in their training.  The feedback we have had from students has been incredibly positive – they really enjoy interacting with PDSA’s clients and recognise the great value of putting their learning into practice.” 

    Florine Morrison, Area Veterinary Manager at PDSA, said: “This is a great opportunity to highlight the brilliant work we do here at PDSA to the next generation of vets, both as a future employer and as somewhere to signpost clients who are struggling with the cost of treatment. It's a valuable exercise for both parties, providing live experience to students to build confidence and practise listening and communication skills that they will need throughout their career.”

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