As representatives of the medical community and as the gatekeepers of prescription antimicrobials, veterinary professionals share a responsibility to optimize the usage of antimicrobials and preserve their effectiveness. This responsibility extends into their relations with their clients and their patients. Engaging in antimicrobial stewardship and improving the veterinarian-client-patient relationship (VCPR) will not only help to combat antimicrobial resistance, but it will also help veterinarians to provide better service to their patients and keep them healthier in the long-term. If you are a veterinary professional, follow the tips below to improve your VCPR and to help control the threat of antimicrobial resistance.
Always provide an evidence-based diagnosis:
Too commonly antimicrobials are prescribed to treat conditions aside from bacterial infections, in which case they are entirely ineffective. The only way to be sure that what you’re treating is a bacterial infection is to grow a culture from a sample and send it for a laboratory analysis. Using antimicrobials when a bacterial infection is not present only works to further the problem of antimicrobial resistance.
Use the right drug for the right bug in the right dosage:
The rule of thumb when prescribing antimicrobials is to use as little as possible but as much as necessary. It’s important that a patient has enough medication to effectively fight their infection without needlessly contributing to antimicrobial resistance. Additionally, identifying the specific bacteria causing the infection is essential to proper treatment and, as explained above, this requires a culture grown from the bacteria to be sent for laboratory analysis.
Follow-up on prescriptions and ensure proper administration:
In order to ensure that prescribed antimicrobials are being properly administered, veterinary professionals have an obligation to discuss administration and dosage with their clients. Along with promoting responsible usage, engaging clients in discussion also strengthens the VCPR. Improving this relationship will also help to facilitate follow-ups in which the veterinary professional can verify that treatment is effective and being administered properly.
Improve your record keeping:
Understanding your patient’s medical history and previous treatments will help to identify the exact nature of their current and future ailments as well as which medications may or may not be effective. This is especially important regarding antimicrobials as the strains of infectious bacteria and their respective levels of antimicrobial resistance can vary largely between individuals.
Discuss antimicrobial resistance with your clients:
The most effective tools we have in the fight against antimicrobial resistance are knowledge and cooperation. By talking to your clients about the growing problem of antimicrobial resistance you can turn perpetrators into protectors and offenders into advocates. Improving your VCPR and opening a dialogue with clients is the most important thing a veterinary professional can do to empower their clients to adopt a position of antimicrobial stewardship.