Dr Sandra Nguyen will be leading a VetPrac online course, Vet Talk, which will help you become more confident in your ability to communicate well with your clients.

Dr Sandra Nguyen achieved Diplomate status of the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine in Oncology in 2010, but for many years prior to this enjoyed communicating well with pet owners. Sandra’s passion for effective communication began during her high school years; one of her favourite subjects was drama, and if she hadn’t become a veterinarian she probably would have tried to become an extra on Neighbours! She became actively involved in the formal process of teaching these skills when working at Ohio State University.

I spoke to Sandra to learn more about her thoughts on this often-ignored skill that is an essential tool in day to day veterinary practice.


At what point of your veterinary career did you realise the importance of communication in veterinary practice? Was it a particular clinical case that prompted you to undergo special training in communication?

I realised when I was working in vet clinics even before university that I didn’t just love the animals, I loved the people that came with them too. I like hearing their story, and being a part of the connection they have with their pet. I didn’t realise communication was actually a thing until after my residency training at Cornell, and I’d started work on faculty at the Ohio State University (OSU). They were actually teaching their students core communication skills within the veterinary course and building a foundation of knowledge around communication. All I had seen before was learning through experience, other’s experiences, and role play.

I could see the enormous benefit that understanding communication had for our clients at OSU in terms of their understanding and trust, and how this transferred benefits to the patient. The students were also much better equipped to deal with those tough conversations we have to have so often in practice, which has made me realise that communication is also a vital part of a vet’s job satisfaction.

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In your opinion, do undergraduate vet students receive adequate training in communication before entering the workforce as veterinarians? What advice would you give recent graduates who feel their communication skills need improvement?

The training has improved immensely over the last decade, but I think the impact that communication has on our daily lives is still underestimated.

Communication should be considered to be another clinical skill we need to develop. And as with any other clinical skill, reading, attending CE, practicing and then taking on feedback about the outcome is the best way to improve your communication.


In your opinion, what makes a great workplace?

Collegiality is a big one for me: where we are all united in a common purpose, and respect each other’s abilities to work toward that purpose.

Our jobs can be both incredibly rewarding and stressful – the highs are high, and the lows are low. A great work place is one where that stress can be shared and minimised and the highs can be celebrated and expanded.

Thanks Sandra, for sharing your insights into the benefits of effective communication in the veterinary profession. Why not invest a little time in improving your communication skills, by enrolling in the VetPrac online course, Vet Talk, commencing Tuesday August 18th, 2020.

Sandra can be contacted at  [email protected] or 0481458361