UK study suggests pet owners bully veterinarians
The statistic makes for sad reading, according to the British Veterinary Nursing Association (BVNA). A full 89 percent of small-animal and mixed-animal veterinarians surveyed by the British Veterinary Association (BVA) say they or their team have felt intimidated by a client's language or behavior.
The survey also revealed that pet owners' intimidating language and behavior is often related to the cost of treatment. No surprise—98 percent of all veterinarians said they've felt pressure to waive fees or accept late payments.
The survey results inspired the two UK associations together to jointly publish shared "Advice to deal with intimidating clients" online at bva.co.uk. Some of the tips include:
In the heat of the moment ...
• Try to remain calm, at all times. Be confident but never aggressive.
• If you feel intimidated by a client, try to not be alone with them. If you are concerned about your safety, politely ask the client to leave. If you see other team members facing difficult clients, do not leave them alone; remain within sight so you can go get help or step in and support your colleague.
After things cool down ...
• Inform the practice manager or owner so appropriate steps can be taken.
• Remember that people’s behavior can arise for many reasons, including distress associated with their pet being ill. While not excusing the behavior, it can help to defuse a situation if a pet owner has the opportunity to express all their concerns. Try active listening and showing you've heard by reflecting those concerns back to the pet owner. Clients may also need to be reassured—"You've made the right decision" or "We’re doing everything we can"—or asked whether they understand everything you’ve told them or have any questions.
• Discuss with colleagues any difficult situation you encounter with a client. Consider how you handled the situation: what you did well, what you could have done better and the final outcome. Use what you learn when you next encounter a difficult client, and work with your entire team to craft a practice policy on how to deal with intimidating situations.
In the future ...
• Use clear messaging within the practice that harassment and violence will not be tolerated. Clients should be made aware of what unacceptable behavior means.
• Attend training courses on understanding and dealing with these types of situations to help you and your clients.
Have you ever felt threatened, bullied or intimidated by a pet owner? Share your story with us at [email protected] and any tips you have for others who find themselves in the same situation. We may share your stories and advice in future coverage.