President's column: Helping the veterinary profession combat cyberbullying

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President's column - Dr. Lori Teller


Words can hurt …
And words can be strong
But just know that you’re strong enough
So keep your head up high; you’re strong enough
~Kaitlyn Oliveira, “Words Can Hurt”

Growing up, you probably learned the children’s rhyme, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” You also may have learned the opposite sentiment, “The pen is mightier than the sword.” While I wish the childhood rhyme was true, anyone who has been subjected to cyberbullying knows just how hurtful words can be.

The AVMA and Banfield Pet Hospital conducted a survey in late 2022 to measure the incidence of veterinary cyberbullying and negative client interactions. The survey was conducted across the profession. Among its findings:

The AVMA’s reputation management toolkit is now available to all veterinary team members—whether or not you are a veterinarian or an AVMA member. 

  • 90 percent of respondents had experienced negative or escalated client interactions in the past year. 
  • 65 percent said they have negative client interactions on a weekly basis. 
  • Because of these interactions, 50 percent of respondents feared or dreaded going to work, and 25 percent said cyberbullying resulted in the loss of staff. 
  • Half of respondents wished they could have a “do-over” and try to create a more positive outcome to the conversation. 

A way forward

The impacts of cyberbullying can lead to poor wellbeing and a negative workplace culture. None of us attended veterinary school to be bullied while working in an amazing profession.

Thanks to an educational grant from Banfield, the AVMA’s reputation management toolkit is now available to all veterinary team members—whether or not you are a veterinarian or an AVMA member. 

The toolkit provides comprehensive resources for coping in real time with cyberbullying incidents and social media firestorms. It also has resources for restoring the reputation of veterinarians, team members, and practices in the aftermath of a crisis. Tools for engaging with the media provide practical guidance on responding publicly during a cyberbullying event.

A new addition to the toolkit includes a list of shared expectations and responsibilities for veterinary teams and clients alike. This document can be displayed in the clinic and will outline what clients can expect when visiting your practice, as well as the expectations we have of them—all aimed at furthering a mutual understanding and respect toward one another while partnering to provide the best possible care to pets. 

In addition to these resources for the whole profession, AVMA members who are facing an immediate cyberbullying incident continue to have access to a free consultation with the crisis management experts at Bernstein Crisis Management. With this toolkit, the AVMA truly has your back. 

For more information, visit and take back the pen—or the keyboard.


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