According to figures from the BVA’s Voice of the Veterinary
Profession survey, 85% of vets report that either they or
a member of their team have felt intimidated by a client’s
language or behaviour, with comments that support staff
often bear the brunt of threatening behaviour.
Vets who work with companion animals or in a mixed
practice are particularly likely to have experienced difficult
clients, with 89% reporting some form of intimidating
experience. Younger vets and female vets were
signifcantly more likely to have experienced some form of
The survey showed that clients’ intimidating language
and behaviour is often related to the cost of treatment.
Nine out of 10 vets working in clinical practice said that
either they or a member of their practice team had been
challenged over their fees or charges, with 98% of vets
saying they have felt pressure from clients to waive fees or
to accept the promise of late payment.
BVA president, John Fishwick, said: “These figures
emphasise the importance of managing expectations
around fees by ensuring a two-way discussion about
options and costs so clients can make a decision in
collaboration with the veterinary team.”
The BVA and BVNA have provided some advice on
how to deal with intimidating clients, as one of the two
organisations’ rst actions of collaborative working under
their new Memorandum of Understanding.
The advice includes:
• Try to remain calm; be confident but never aggressive.
•If you feel intimidated by a client, try to not be
alone with them. If you do not feel able to resolve
the immediate scenario and 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.
• Try not to take it personally. Being on the
receiving end of this behaviour can be upsetting
and cause significant stress.
• Discuss with your colleagues any difficult
situation you have encountered with a client.
Consider how well you handled the situation.
Work together to have a practice policy on how to
deal with intimidating situations.
• Inform the practice manager or practice principal
so that appropriate practice-level steps can be
• Use clear messaging within the practice that
harassment and violence will not be tolerated.
Clients should be made aware of what
unacceptable behaviour means.
• It can help to diffuse a situation if the owner can
have the opportunity to get their concerns out.
Actively listen and ensure the client knows you
have heard by reflecting these concerns back.