Exploring the Role of Interpersonal Relationships in Equine Veterinary Practice

Best, Colleen O'Rourke
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University of Guelph

Interpersonal relationships in veterinary medicine have been found to influence the outcomes of veterinary care. Focus group and survey-based methodologies were used to investigate the caretaker-veterinarian relationship in equine veterinary practice, and again used to examine equine referring veterinarian and referral care provider relationships in equine veterinary practice. A study exploring equine caretaker expectations of equine veterinarians and veterinarians’ perceptions of caretakers’ expectations was conducted through 9 caretaker (n=46) and 4 veterinarian (n=25) focus groups. Six themes were identified: veterinarian-client relationship, veterinarian-client communication, customer service, financial aspects of veterinary care, veterinarian competency, and veterinarian-horse relationship. The two themes addressed in this dissertation are financial aspects of veterinary care and veterinarian-client relationship. A survey investigating client satisfaction with equine veterinarians (n=1577) found that overall, equine clients are satisfied with the veterinary care they receive with a median satisfaction score of 94.8 out of 100. Increasing client age, client-horse bond, and frequency of use of the veterinarian positively contributed to client satisfaction, while increasing days since the veterinary visit and higher veterinarian perceived age were associated with lower client satisfaction. Exploration of referring equine veterinarians’ expectations of equine referral care providers (i.e., specialists) involved 6 referring veterinarian focus groups (n=48). Thematic analysis revealed an overall expectation that referral care act as an extension of the referring veterinarian’s care. This was described as occurring through communication that involved the referring veterinarian in the patient’s care and a collegial referring veterinarian-specialist relationship. The relationship between referring veterinarians and their clients appeared to inform a number of referring veterinarians’ expectations of specialists. A survey investigating referring veterinarian satisfaction with referral care (n=197) found that mean satisfaction with their most recent referral experience was 75 out of 100. In addition, discrepancies were found between the views of referring veterinarians and the perceptions of specialists (n=87) regarding how referring veterinarians make decisions of where to refer a case and the barriers they face to referral care. This thesis contributes to the understanding of how relationships in equine veterinary practice can enhance outcomes of veterinary care.

equine veterinary medicine, veterinary communication, interpersonal relationships, veterinary specialists, equine client satisfaction, referring veterinarian satisfaction, equine referral care, relationship-centered care in veterinary medicine