Veterinary Community Support– The Impact of Cyberbullying

Veterinary Community Support– The Impact of Cyberbullying

The PVMA would like to extend support and stand behind our community veterinary hospitals, many who have experienced negative online reviews and social media comments. It is important to note that there is a vast difference between critique (disagreeing or criticizing what someone did) and abuse that includes threats, harassment, and intent to inflict emotional or physical harm.

We wholeheartedly condemn social media cyberbullying and the backlash that occurs. Online abuse can be so damaging especially in its anonymity, how long-lasting it is, and how easy it is for it to go viral. Damage to hospital reputation aside, one of the most alarming results of this kind of online hate is its direct effect on one’s mental health.  Between 1979 and 2015, male and female veterinarians committed suicide between 2 to 3.5 times more often than the national average. An AVMA survey in 2014 found the most common impacts of cyberbullying were workplace tension and mental well-being problems such as depression and stress. Almost one-half (48%) of veterinarians who had been the victims of a cyber-attack had considered a career change due to the incident.

More often than not, adverse events in healthcare are not due to a single decision of an individual, but rather the result of several breakdowns in systems, processes, and communication leading to an undesirable outcome. Creating a culture of safety and transparency is critical to continually enhancing safeguards to improve the quality of care we can deliver to our pets. These moments of challenge are an opportunity for our profession to learn and grow; engage in conversations with our own teams to improve our processes and set standards where appropriate to better protect our patients with future challenges. One of the simplest ways that we can support each other is by sending messages of compassion. Even if you don’t agree with the specifics of how a case was handled, you can still reach out to friends and colleagues to offer kindness and understanding.

The PVMA supports our veterinarians, veterinary teams, and the diverse and important roles they play in our community. They give their hearts and their expertise in service to the public every day. Practicing veterinary medicine in this day and age comes with so many pressures and challenges – fear of online retribution being just one of many daily stressors that can have a great negative impact on our quality of life and love of what we do.

Please reach out to us if you feel like you need guidance or support in any way.

Board of Directors
Portland Veterinary Medical Association

The following are a few resources for you and your hospital if you are facing challenges with cyberbullying:
1. 24/7 Cyberbullying Hotline: This is available for AVMA members who are facing an immediate cyberbullying situation have access to a 24/7 hotline staffed by crisis management experts from Bernstein Crisis Management:

2. AVMA’s Cyberbullying Toolkit:  Contains resources on how to address and manage these online events (AVMA Membership Login required):

3. The closed Facebook group Not One More Vet and have resources and trained support for any veterinarians who are dealing with cyberbullying and are feeling overwhelmed or depressed.