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4 Emotional Elements of the Doctor-Client Relationship

Updated: Apr 20

Most of us entered the veterinary field because of the special connection we share with animals. But it’s important not to forget about those human relationships too. After all, it’s the patient’s owner who ultimately make the decision of who will be their pet’s long-term doctor. Finding a way to connect and bond on a personal level requires tapping into certain emotional elements of client service. Here are the four most critical areas to focus on.

First Impressions 

Just as you’re evaluating an animal during that initial visit, his or her owner is sizing you up at the same time. How do you handle their precious pet? How engaging are you with them? Are you friendly, warm and welcoming? Do you invite questions and take the time to listen and respond? Are you patient and receptive? The importance of good bedside manner cannot be understated – especially during the very first interaction, so make sure you are doing everything in your power to win them over right out of the gate.

Comfort Level / Trust

The key to client compliance is establishing a solid foundation of trust. When a pet owner feels comfortable asking questions and discussing their concerns, they’ll be much more likely to listen to your advice and follow your guidance. This serves two purposes: strengthening the connection between yourself and the client, and ensuring that your patients always receive optimal care, both in-clinic and at home. To that end, you should be focusing on ways to earn the trust of your clients and their pets and making sure every one of them feels comfortable while in your care.


At the end of the day, your clients could easily choose any vet on the block. The fact that they’ve decided to go with you should not go unnoticed. Always look for opportunities to show your appreciation and thank them for their business. One great way to do this – and grow your practice at the same time – is to implement a referral program. Whenever a client refers someone new, they get a credit on their account. This makes them feel appreciated and also brings new business through the doors, making it a win-win!


Every time a client takes your advice and does something you recommend, you should recognize it out loud. After all, who doesn’t love a good compliment? People take pride in how they care for their pets and it’s a nice feeling when someone tells them they’re doing a good job. Never miss an opportunity to compliment a client on their follow-through. This reinforces your partnership and increases the likelihood of continued compliance going forward. Again – it’s a situation in which everyone benefits.

The doctor-client relationship is just as important as the bond you share with your patients. By embracing and nurturing the emotional elements listed above, you can further strengthen that connection and ultimately build a more sustainably successful business in the process.

Our Advice on Emotional Elements of the Doctor-Client Relationship in 2024

How can veterinarians effectively communicate complex medical information to clients in a way that is easy to understand?

Veterinarians can effectively communicate complex medical information to clients by using clear, straightforward language, avoiding medical jargon. Visual aids such as diagrams, models, or digital apps can help illustrate concepts and procedures. It's beneficial to provide written summaries or handouts that clients can take home for reference. Encouraging questions and offering to clarify details ensures comprehension. Additionally, using analogies related to everyday experiences can make complex topics more relatable. Ensuring clients understand the information is crucial for informed decision-making and fostering trust in the veterinary relationship.

What specific strategies can veterinarians employ to demonstrate empathy and compassion when delivering difficult news?

Veterinarians can demonstrate empathy and compassion when delivering difficult news by maintaining a calm and gentle tone, using empathetic language that acknowledges the client's feelings. It's important to deliver the news in a private, quiet setting to ensure confidentiality and comfort. Allowing clients time to process the information, actively listening to their concerns, and responding with understanding and support can greatly help. Offering various support options, such as grief counseling or support groups, also shows care and consideration for the client's emotional well-being during challenging times.

What role does non-verbal communication play in building trust and rapport with clients?

Non-verbal communication plays a critical role in building trust and rapport with veterinary clients. Effective use of eye contact, facial expressions, and body language can convey attentiveness, empathy, and confidence. For instance, maintaining eye contact shows that the veterinarian is engaged and sincere, while an open posture suggests approachability and willingness to listen. Touch, such as a reassuring pat on the shoulder, can also be comforting to clients in stressful situations. These non-verbal cues enhance the perception of care and professionalism, fostering deeper trust and connection with clients.

How can veterinarians navigate and address potential conflicts or disagreements with clients?

Veterinarians can navigate and address conflicts or disagreements with clients by first actively listening to understand the client's concerns fully. It’s crucial to acknowledge their feelings and validate their emotions without being defensive. Clear, honest communication about the situation, explaining the reasons behind decisions or recommendations, helps to clarify misunderstandings. Offering alternative solutions where possible can demonstrate flexibility and a commitment to the client's needs. Maintaining professionalism throughout the conversation is essential to resolving conflicts constructively and preserving a positive relationship with the client.

How can veterinarians effectively gather and respond to client feedback to continuously improve the doctor-client relationship?

Veterinarians can effectively gather and respond to client feedback by implementing regular surveys, suggestion boxes, and encouraging online reviews. Actively soliciting feedback during or after appointments can also provide real-time insights. It’s crucial to analyze the feedback comprehensively, identify common themes, and address specific concerns promptly. Communicating changes or improvements made in response to client suggestions demonstrates that the practice values their input, enhancing trust and satisfaction. Additionally, acknowledging positive feedback and thanking clients for their contributions fosters a stronger, more engaged doctor-client relationship.

Want more practice management tips and tricks? Bookmark the DVMelite blog and check back often for fresh, relevant content.

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