Cyberbullying in veterinary medicine

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About one in five veterinarians has been a victim or works with someone who has been a victim of cyberbullying in the workplace, which ranges from negative online reviews to threats via the Web or email.

That was one of the findings of a survey on cyberbullying that the AVMA conducted in December 2014. The respondents were 348 veterinarians, 85 percent in companion animal private practice.

The survey found that most cyberbullying attacks arose from disputes over patient care, charges for care or services, diagnosis, or treatment. Former clients or staff initiated seven of 10 attacks. Staff infighting was another notable cause of cyberbullying attacks.

About half of the attacks were initiated within 72 hours of the inciting situation. Most attacks occurred on Facebook or Yelp. The primary type of attack was a negative online review or a post on social media. Survey respondents also reported email campaigns and threats of financial, emotional, or physical harm to the veterinarian, veterinary staff, or family.

The biggest impacts of cyberbullying were workplace tension and adverse mental effects such as depression and stress.