My bedside manner is usually pretty decent, I'm told (even if I do sometimes tend to write things down instead of taking the time to quiz my clients to make sure they absorbed all the information correctly). But it wasn't always. Because here's the truth of it: Even if the empathy part comes naturally, effective communication takes practice … lots of it.

No, those with excellent bedside manner aren't necessarily born that way. We can be trained in basic communication techniques that, given time and practice, might one day translate into (mad) good exam room skills.

Colorado State University's Argus Institute at the School of Veterinary Medicine has obviously bought into this fundamental tenet, too. Otherwise, it wouldn't have developed an innovative workshop to improve veterinary client-communication skills.

The program is called, Frank -- as in, "Frankly, Doctor, your bedside manner sucks!" Here's what had to say about it in a recent news piece:

Frank workshops, typically running over two days, begin with interactive warmups as a large group. Participants focus on eight key communication skills like asking open-ended questions and using reflective listening and empathy during conversations with clients. Small group exercises that follow identify reasons to use these skills in daily practice, such as to reduce client complaints, enhance teamwork, improve client satisfaction and enhance the morale of the work environment.

Sounds kinda psychobabble-y, I know. But can I say how welcome this development is for vet med? I mean, if I'd been offered a client communication rotation in vet school I might have breezed through my first five years of practice without sticking my foot in my mouth as often as I did … or without as much acrimony on the financial front.

The only problem with these workshops? The veterinarians who really need them will probably never attend.  

Now fess up … does your veterinarian need a trip to Colorado?

Dr. Patty Khuly

Pic of the day: Nurse K strikes again by adri saves the day