A Scalable and Effective Course Design for Teaching Competency-Based Euthanasia Communication Skills in Veterinary Curricula

J Vet Med Educ. 2021 Jun 8;e20200133. doi: 10.3138/jvme-2020-0133. Online ahead of print.


Veterinary staff must be able to navigate end-of-life care with sensitivity and skill to create the best possible outcome for the patient, client, and veterinary team collectively. Despite the clear importance of euthanasia communication and procedural skills in veterinary practice, recent graduates of veterinary programs identified gaps between skills deemed important in clinical practice and skills emphasized in the curriculum. Little time is allocated to euthanasia procedural or communication training across the board in US veterinary programs. Thus, it is of paramount importance to establish intentional and well-designed instruction and assessment of euthanasia communication skills for veterinary trainees. A course on veterinary euthanasia communication skills was designed to emphasize themes and topics essential for a competent veterinarian. Through course evaluations, students expressed the sentiments that this course improved their euthanasia communication skills, that euthanasia communication skills are essential for their careers, and that the course content should be integrated into the core curriculum. This article presents a scaffold for the instruction and assessment of veterinary euthanasia communication skills in alignment with a competency-based veterinary education (CBVE) framework and outlines specific learning interventions used in the course that are scalable and may be extracted and incorporated into existing courses.

Keywords: communication skills training; competency-based medical education; competency-based veterinary education; end-of-life training; euthanasia communication skills; veterinary euthanasia.