Veterinary schools are increasingly developing students' communication skills, with an emphasis placed on practice conveying medical and scientific knowledge to different audiences. We describe how patient-centered written communication has been integrated into the training of veterinary students using toxicology-related preventive materials. Third-year veterinary students were given an assignment to prepare a client-focused brochure related to veterinary toxicology. Since 2010, 148 students have completed this assignment, with an average score of 93.4%. Use of a grading rubric was instituted in 2011 and resulted in a more rigorous assessment of the brochures by the course instructors. In this study, we evaluated a sample (n=6) selected from 10 brochures volunteered for further public and expert assessment. Each brochure was measured for readability and assessed with a rubric for perceived usefulness and acceptability by 12 veterinary toxicologists and 10 or 11 adult members of the public attending a college of veterinary medicine open house. Veterinary toxicologist review anticipated that the brochures would be useful for most clients, and the public reviewers confirmed this assessment. Evaluation of the brochures using set marking criteria and readability indexes showed that students had successfully targeted the chosen audiences. Feedback showed that the general public rated the sample brochures highly in terms of quality, usefulness, and interest. Completion of this study has resulted in revision of the grading rubric, an increased use of brochure examples, and additional instruction in readability assessment and brochure development, thereby improving the assignment as a learning exercise.
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