If you ask a room of veterinary nurses why they got into this field they will undoubtedly say the animals. It often gets overlooked, however, that you will spend a great amount of that time with their owners. Therefore in order to do best by the animal, we nurses have to suitably communicate with pet owners.
Compliance is defined as the act or process of complying to a desire, demand, proposal, or regimen . In improving owner compliance we can ensure better care for our patients. It should be noted that most owners want to do right by their pet, they just lack the proper tools and knowledge to do so. To help formulate consistency as well as boost owner compliance, I have compiled a list by using the acronym RESTART CAR for easier remembering.
How to promote compliance with pet owners:
Today mostly everyone has a smartphone, so it would be a shame to miss the opportunity to utilize it. Using a reminder system via text or email is a great way to ensure that owners stay on top of their pets’ health. Also included with a reminder should be a blurb of information that can further educate owners on pet healthcare. This extra step can bridge the gap between reminding owners to give/do the treatment and why.
It’s important to build an empathetic relationship with an owner. If owners do not value or trust you they are less likely to comply. Do not be a robot; express your emotions. Explain that this is a team effort, and how important it is to you that their pet gets/stays healthy. Owners do not want their pet to be a “file number”. They want to feel that their pet is in great hands. Hands that not only value their job but are also passionate about helping their furry friend be at their best.
Nothing intimidates and overwhelms an owner more than the use of medical jargon. Using relatable terms, known metaphors, and scenarios will create a more successful outcome. If you use words that go above an owner’s head they may be reluctant to ask questions. Without these questions being answered, they will most likely not absorb what the treatment is for, and why they should do it. To us it may seem self explanatory but, to an owner, information overload can deter the success of treatment. Keeping it simple will deliver the point without confusing the owner.
Teach by Demonstration
Demonstrations are a helpful tool to assist in understanding. If you’re comfortable, offer the owner the option to video record you so they can refer back to it. It’s also important during demonstrations to have the client relay back what they learned so any misunderstandings can be cleared up. With each individual patient comes unique challenges, and if the pet shows difficulty you can demonstrate useful tactics in real time. For example, you can demonstrate how to give a pill to the pet, or if there is a wound that needs to be cleaned multiple times a day, you can show them how to do it properly.
Cost is usually a top concern of pet owners, and lack of understanding can result in owners choosing the least appropriate treatment, or no treatment at all. Therefore it’s important to break down why each treatment is needed. I find taking owners into a room to go over each cost and what it was used for is extremely valuable, and results in great outcomes. By analyzing the cost with the owner you’re allowing them to recognize why each treatment is being done and that there is no price on great medicine.
Recommend Medication Technique
Our daily course of work can make us forget how difficult it can be to administer medication to an animal. Before choosing a medication composition we should be asking owners about their comfort, and experience level on medicating their pets. Then we should choose which medication option will be easiest for them. After the choice is made it can be helpful to show an owner how to dispense it to their pet.
How often a treatment or medication is given can cause anxiety. “Will I be home for the next dose?” “Can I fit this into my schedule?” “I work all day and cannot find someone who can administer the medication.” These are some common concerns from pet owners. It’s our job to assist in making a realistic guideline for owners that will certify pets are given their medication at appropriate times. If possible custom timeline sheets can be offered, and reviewed with the owner. If problems arise, guidelines can then be adjusted.
Calling a client with the good news is just as important as calling with bad news. It’s also a good way to check in on the status of the pet, and remind them what is expected of them going forward. Good news encourages the owner to continue practicing good habits. Callbacks also give the opportunity to discuss any current challenges they may be facing and allows for early problem solving.
When a hospitalized, or surgical patient leaves the clinic their owners are often so overwhelmed that they forget what is expected of them. Sending them home with a typed up, detailed discharge instruction sheet can help ease their anxiety. It emphasizes what you have already told them, and protects the nurse from forgetting to discuss important directions. Time is of the utmost importance when working at a busy clinic, so I would have these templates made up ahead of time. Not only does this save time, but also makes certain that it will be done for all patients.
Getting the entire team on board with successful owner compliance is a valuable tool for a prosperous business. Positive outcomes boost morale and are extremely rewarding for both nurse and pet owners. Current strategies, and goals to improve owner compliance should be set at monthly staff meetings. This will create a better picture of what is working and what can be tossed out. As a veterinary nurse, you are a link between effective owner compliance and quality pet care. Effective compliance begins with effective communication, which starts with you the veterinary nurse, and when executed properly everyone wins.
- Compliance (n.d). Retrieved from https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/compliance