Communications – a Contemporary Challenge and Opportunity in Veterinary and Human Medical Education

Purpose – this abstract questions whether as educators we are prepared to take the opportunity for teaching and learning about communications. This opportunity has been created by the changes in the practices of veterinary and human medicine in the past one hundred years.
The Challenge – the Flexner report (Flexner, 1910) caused seismic changes in human medical education and the implications are still being felt today (AFMC, 2010, Dornan et al., 2011). Veterinary education is in a similar situation (Robbé, 2003). The changes constitute a Kuhn-like shift (Friedman, 2003) in thinking away from a predominance of knowledge and technical competencies, our roles as scholars, scientists and technical practitioners, towards an increased weighting for affective competencies, our roles as professionals.
The Opportunity – this shift invites the greater use of the humanities and social sciences in order to improve learning about communications with clients, other professional colleagues and the wider society. Bourdieu’s work (Wacquant, 2002) can be interpreted as offering a mechanism for this learning through the access to resources that frame an individual’s communications’ competencies. These resources include: cultural – speech, clothes, aspirations, interests; societal – people, rules, power, behaviours in work settings and elsewhere; economic at the micro-level – photocopier, printer, office, segregation, offsite work; environmental at the macro-level – university, government, regulatory bodies.
Conclusions – three questions are posed for educators: (1) what principles underpin your practices? (2) to what extent do you agree with the description of the challenge? (3) what options can you identify to respond to the opportunity?

AFMC (2010) The Future of Medical Education in Canada (FMEC): a Collective Vision for MD Education. Ottawa, Association of Faculties of Medicine of Canada.
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FRIEDMAN, M. (2003) Kuhn and Logical Empiricism. IN NICKLES, T. (Ed.) Thomas Kuhn. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.
ROBBÉ, I. J. (2003) Drawing Together Quality Issues, Institutional Benchmarking and Revalidation IN HUTTLY, S., SWEET, J. & TAYLOR, I. (Eds.) Effective Learning and Teaching in Medical, Dental and Veterinary Education London, Kogan Page.
WACQUANT, L. (2002) The Sociological Life of Pierre Bourdieu. International Sociology, 17, 549-556.

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