Tips for Providing Constructive Feedback to Veterinary Colleagues

Posted by Brett Bingham on Wed, 09/27/2023 - 1:12pm
Veterinarian providing feedback to colleague

In the field of veterinary medicine, effective communication is paramount. This includes providing feedback to peers in a way that fosters growth, learning, and ultimately, better patient care. Constructive feedback can be a powerful tool when delivered thoughtfully and with empathy.

Effective Ways to Provide Feedback

Choose the Right Time and Place

Selecting an appropriate setting for giving feedback is crucial. Find a quiet, private space where both you and your colleague can converse without interruptions. Ensure that the timing is suitable and that they are receptive to feedback. Avoid addressing issues in front of others, as this can lead to defensiveness and embarrassment. But it is also more considerate of you to do so.

Be Specific and Objective

Vague feedback can be confusing and unhelpful. Instead, focus on specific behaviors or actions. For example, rather than saying, "You need to improve your communication skills," try, "I noticed that during the last surgery, you struggled to communicate effectively with me and others. Let's discuss some strategies to improve this."

Use the "Feedback Sandwich" Technique

This method involves sandwiching constructive criticism between positive feedback. Start with something the individual has done well, follow with the area that needs improvement, and conclude with another positive comment. This approach helps maintain a positive and encouraging tone.

For instance: "I was impressed with how you handled that difficult case yesterday. However, I think there's an opportunity for improvement in the way we communicate the treatment plan to clients. Your technical skills are excellent, and with some adjustments in communication, you'll be even more effective."

Maintain a Non-Confrontational Tone

Approach the conversation with empathy and a non-confrontational demeanor. Avoid accusatory language or a harsh tone. Use "I" statements to express your observations and feelings, which can make the feedback feel less like criticism and more like a collaborative discussion. For example, say, "I noticed that sometimes it's challenging to keep to the schedule. Can we brainstorm some strategies together to address this issue?" instead of, "You're always behind schedule."

Encourage Self-Reflection

Encourage the individual to self-reflect on their performance. Ask open-ended questions like, "How do you feel about how the surgery went?" or "What are your thoughts on how we could have communicated the diagnosis more effectively?" This promotes a sense of ownership and accountability in their professional development.

Offer Constructive Suggestions

Provide actionable advice for improvement. Offer specific strategies, resources, or training opportunities that can help the individual enhance their skills. This demonstrates your commitment to their growth and shows that you're invested in their success.

Follow Up and Provide Support

Check in with your colleague after giving feedback to see how they're progressing. Offer ongoing support and resources to help them implement any changes. This shows that you're genuinely interested in their development and that you're there to assist them in their journey.

Lead by Example

Demonstrate the behavior and skills you're encouraging in others. Show through your actions what effective communication, technical proficiency, and patient care look like. This not only provides a positive example but also creates a culture of continuous improvement within the team.

In conclusion, providing feedback in veterinary medicine is an essential skill for fostering growth and improving patient care. By choosing the right time and place, being specific and objective, using the "Feedback Sandwich" technique, maintaining a non-confrontational tone, encouraging self-reflection, offering constructive suggestions, providing ongoing support, and leading by example, you can create a positive and productive feedback environment in your veterinary practice. Remember, effective feedback is a collaborative process that benefits both the individual and the entire team.

Dr. Brett Bingham, DVM

Dr. Brett Bingham, DVM


In the early years of my veterinary practice, I learned the hard way that unintended bad communication can derail your best intentions. Through trial and error, I developed a communication course for myself and my veterinary team to develop confidence and success in the exam room. You can learn these powerful principles too! When great communication practices are put in place AND practiced regularly, you will see consistent growth, happier clients, and better job satisfaction.

Allow me to teach you the tools I’ve learned so that your practice can grow too.

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