The Business of Practice: Courageous Conversations

Dr. Colleen Best helps us understand how to share difficult news as ‘courageous conversations’ rather than as a delivery of ‘bad news.’
veterinarian horse back owner
Veterinarians need to have courageous conversations with clients when sharing bad news. iStock

In episode 37 of The Business of Practice podcast, Dr. Colleen Best helps us understand how to share difficult news as ‘courageous conversations’ rather than as a delivery of ‘bad news.’

“Delivering bad news is like a courier dropping a package on the front steps and leaving,” said Colleen Best, DVM, PhD, CCFP. “A courageous conversation makes you a partner in the experience. We diminish our role and power if we ‘dump and run.’ ”

She said to keep in mind that you might have uncovered a problem with a client’s horse, but you aren’t responsible for the issue. However, Best said when we have news that will upset someone else, veterinarians have a role to play. “Tell them the results, then help them problem-solve and create a path forward,” she said.

In a practice setting, you might actually be responsible for the decision you have to deliver to a staff member, such as they can’t have the time off they requested. If you are just making a “delivery,” Best said you should understand there probably will be consequences.

Using good communication skills try to find out why it is important to your staff member to have that time off, then consider if it is possible for that person to change their plans or not. “I didn’t realize that when you asked for time off it was because your sister was getting married and you were in the wedding.” Or maybe that staff member has to keep her sister’s young son while she goes in for a C-section. Both of those requests have time limitations rather than and employee who just wants to take off to go hiking a long weekend this month and there isn’t a time restriction.

Best, whose PhD research focused on relationships in equine practice, including veterinarian-client and referring veterinarian-specialist communication operates Best Vet Coaching and Consulting in Ontario.

Topics discussed in this podcast included:

  • Key components of a courageous conversation
  • Content of the conversation
  • Setting the stage
  • Timing of a courageous conversation
  • What is not said—nonverbal communication
  • “Partnership” conversations—co-creating solutions
  • Empathy

And remember: Sharing difficult news is never easy, and courageous conversations require courage, no matter how many skills you use or how well prepared you are. Best reminds us to take our time, set the stage effectively, establish partnership and be empathetic.

Check out Best’s article Courageous Conversations on that goes along with this podcast.

The Business of Practice podcast is brought to you in 2022 by CareCredit.

Disclaimer: This content is subject to change without notice and offered for informational use only. You are urged to consult with your individual business, financial, legal, tax and/or other medical providers with respect to any information presented. Synchrony and any of its affiliates, including CareCredit, (collectively, “Synchrony”) makes no representations or warranties regarding this content and accept no liability for any loss or harm arising from the use of the information provided. All statements and opinions in the article are the sole opinions of the author. Your receipt of this material constitutes your acceptance of these terms and conditions.
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