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Volume 21, Number 1 Spring, 1994

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Letter to the Editor


Dear Sir:

Veterinary teaching hospitals and other large clinical teaching institutions are inundated with consultation calls every working day. I have always thought that the information contained in these calls was a tremendous teaching resource not being fully utilized. For the last 10 years, I have had a good quality speakerphone in the clinical cardiology laboratory where our clinical student group performs procedures including physical examinations, electrocardiograms, color Doppler ultrasound exams and where we conduct our group rounds. Students are expected to participate in "speakerphone consultation rounds" and it is listed as one of the eleven written learning objectives for our clinical group that they receive at the start of a 2-week rotation.

I sense that many practitioners are proud of the fact that we think their calls are important enough to be included in the teaching program. None have ever asked us to turn off the speakerphone. Student feedback has been all positive, both verbally and on teaching evaluation questionnaires.

Phone consultations would be a good way to stimulate clinical enthusiasm in 1st- and 2nd-year students. They are so eager for clinical input in the early years in most curricula. If prior permission were obtained, these conversations could even be recorded for later use by these early classes. Possibly they could be used to replace a laboratory in the preclinical years.

Students are quick to pick up on the two levels of vocabulary used in speakerphone conversations. There is the ivory tower precise medical terminology that we use to talk to our students and practitioners, and the lay language that we use with clients. The two hardest things to which student must adjust when they graduate are how to charge adequately for their services and to communicate effectively with their clients and colleagues. Speakerphone rounds help address the latter.

Finally, speakerphone rounds can at times be very entertaining. Some conversations and situations can be hilarious. Some days are so full of very serious things that a good chuckle is really needed.

In summary, we have found speakerphone utilization and inclusion of "speakerphone consultation rounds" to be a significant teaching aid for students, interns and residents in clinical cardiology.

Kenneth W. Knauer, DVM
Small Animal Medicine & Surgery
Texas Veterinary Medical Center
College Station, TX 77843

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