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We Must Protect Our Teams, Says BVA, As Statistics Show 1 In 2 Vets Exposed To Online Abuse

3 weeks ago

3rd May, 2022 15h18


The British Veterinary Association is urging vet teams to do more to protect vets from abuse by clients as figures released today show 1 in 2 vets working in clinical practice experienced online abuse last year.

The new ‘Respect your vet team – end abuse’ campaign aims to support vets and veterinary workplaces who experience abuse from animal owners either in person or online, in the form of harassment, trolling and unfair reviews.

New statistics from Voice of the Veterinary Profession survey, released ahead of World Vet Day on 30 April, show that online abuse of veterinary professionals is nearly as common as abuse in person. In another survey last year 57% of vets in clinical practice reported that they had felt intimidated by clients’ language or behaviour over the past year, an increase of ten percentage points since the same question was asked in 2019. 

BVA President Justine Shotton said: “The current pressures on vet teams are immense and it’s simply unacceptable that their jobs should be made even harder by abuse from clients, either online or in person. We’re very aware that a visit to the vet may be an anxious and uncertain time for animal owners, particularly when the prognosis is poor or the necessary treatment is costly, but it is absolutely unacceptable to take these frustrations out on veterinary staff. These figures show that such interactions are just as frequent, and just as damaging online as they are in person.

“I know from experience the huge impact that a single aggressive or intimidating interaction with a client can have on your mental wellbeing. When incidents mount up it is no surprise that they can affect our sense of job satisfaction and ultimately drive skilled veterinary staff out of the profession.”

The new figures show that the impact of online abuse can be significant: vets who had experienced online abuse in the past 12 months were more likely to report that they will have left the profession in five years’ time to pursue another career (29% vs. 9% of vets who had not experienced abuse). Female vets (45% vs. 30% male) and younger vets (49% under 35 vs. 27% those 55 and over) were more likely to experience online abuse.

As part of their new campaign BVA is releasing a toolkit with new resources to support Team Vet in protecting staff and limiting the frequency and impact of abuse from clients. These include new practical tips on how to protect veterinary staff from online abuse, downloadable posters and graphics and a series of blogs. BVA is also working with Vetlife to tackle the effect of abuse on mental health and wellbeing and further resources will be added later this year.

The most common type of online abuse reported by vets was unfair reviews (90%). Almost half of those who experienced online abuse had experienced abusive language (46%), while one in three (33%) experienced trolling. A further three in ten (31%) experienced online harassment.

Justine added: “The focus of World Vet Day this year is resilience, but that cannot just mean individual vets struggling on in the face of aggressive and unpleasant behaviour from clients. Most clients are cooperative and grateful for the care their animals receive but a small minority are creating an intolerable environment for veterinary professionals in person and online.

“We’re hoping that this toolkit will be a first step in supporting vet teams to have conversations about these problems and to put practical support in place to limit their impact. If we want to protect the wellbeing of veterinary professionals and tackle retention issues, we must protect our teams.”

Vetlife Helpline is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year on: 0303 040 2551 or via anonymous email.

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