Senior Lecturer in Independent Learning, Royal Veterinary College, London, UK


Lecturer in Veterinary Professionalism, Royal Veterinary College, London, UK

* During this talk a selective attention test video was played. Unfortunately this did not stream smoothly at the live event, so to get the most out of this talk (and it is a really great video that you don't want to miss especially if you haven't seen it before!), when this video is cued at 16.15 minutes in, please pause the webinar recording and go to the below video on YouTube and then skip and return to the recording at 18.00 minutes in. There is a second video in this talk, at around 37 minutes in, of which the second half fails to stream. Again if you pause the recording, and watch this below you can then restart the recording at 38.32 minutes, where there is a brief overlay of audio, the talk  then continues smoothly from there. For fullscreen streaming please click on the Vimeo logo in the bottom right hand corner of the video.


As veterinary students you may have seen clients that are verbally abusive or aggressive towards practice staff. In a recent survey by the BVA, 85% of vets reported that either they or a member of their team had felt intimidated by a client’s language or behaviour (1). These behaviours are perhaps not surprising given the intensity of the feelings between owner and sick animal. However, is it useful to classify these clients as “badly behaved”? While some situations appear to arise out of the blue, people often give clues to their emotional state and if recognised and dealt with early on, the escalation of emotions can be intercepted. The challenge is that emotional “cues” tend to be subtle and are often therefore missed by veterinarians who are focused on the clinical aspects of the case. This results in situations that are more challenging than we would perhaps like, but it also offers an opportunity for compassion. 


How then do we recognise the emotional cues leaked by clients, and how do we manage client’s emotions effectively while also carrying out our clinical duties and looking after ourselves? In this talk we will explore why this is challenging and how careful observation of the client to define and refine the emotional situation as well as the clinical situation is key in successfully dealing with clients, whether those emotions are anger or anxiety. We will conclude that actively listening to each other and ourselves is critical to all successful interactions between human beings!

Learning Objectives:

1. Recognise the subtle cues that clients express under emotional stress 

2. Recognise the impact of just focusing on the clinical outcome 

3. Develop a strategy for responding to other people’s emotional cues 

4. Notice the impact of other people’s emotions on yourself and develop a plan for managing your own wellbeing



Clients behaving badly - recognising and managing client emotions


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