Setting Healthy Boundaries with Rude Clients in Veterinary Practice

Posted by Brett Bingham on Wed, 09/13/2023 - 1:24pm
rude client calling veterinary hospital

Working in a veterinary hospital can be an incredibly rewarding and fulfilling profession, allowing you to care for furry companions and provide valuable support to their owners. However, just like any job, it comes with its fair share of challenges, including dealing with difficult and rude clients. While most pet owners are respectful and understanding, encountering those who are rude or disrespectful to veterinary staff is not uncommon. Setting healthy boundaries in such situations is crucial to maintaining a positive work environment and ensuring the best possible care for the animals. In this blog, we'll explore effective strategies for setting boundaries with rude clients in a veterinary hospital.

Strategies for Setting Boundaries in Your Pet Hospital

Remain Calm and Professional

The first and most crucial step when dealing with rude clients is to remain calm and professional at all times. It can be challenging, but keeping your emotions in check is essential. Responding to rudeness with professionalism sets the tone for the interaction and can often disarm the client's hostility.

Active Listening

Before addressing the issue, take the time to actively listen to the client's concerns. Sometimes, rude behavior is a manifestation of frustration or fear for their pet's health. By listening attentively, you can better understand their perspective and potentially defuse the situation.

Maintain Clear Communication

Effective communication is key to setting healthy boundaries with rude clients. Be clear about your clinic's policies, procedures, and expectations from the beginning. Ensure that clients understand what is and isn't acceptable behavior in your clinic. Provide written information or verbal explanations as necessary.

Enforce Policies Consistently

Consistency is essential when setting and maintaining boundaries. Make sure all staff members are on the same page regarding how to handle rude clients and enforce clinic policies consistently. If a client crosses a line, everyone should know the appropriate steps to take. Many times, it can be helpful to have someone on staff who is the go-to individual for these situations (i.e. Safety and Compliance)

Set Limits on Verbal Abuse

While it's important to listen to clients' concerns, it's equally vital to set limits on verbal abuse. Make it clear that any form of aggression, insults, or disrespectful language will not be tolerated. Politely but firmly remind the client of the clinic's code of conduct and the respectful treatment expected from all clients.

Offer Solutions

When addressing a rude client, focus on finding solutions rather than escalating the conflict. Propose alternative ways to address their concerns or offer compromises when appropriate. The goal is to resolve the issue while maintaining a respectful atmosphere.

Document Incidents

In cases of persistent rudeness or aggression, it's essential to document incidents. This documentation can serve as a reference if further action is necessary, such as terminating the client-patient relationship or involving higher management. Keep detailed records of the date, time, individuals involved, and a description of the incident.

Seek Support

Don't hesitate to seek support or advice from your superiors or colleagues when dealing with particularly challenging clients. They can provide guidance, share their experiences, and help you navigate difficult situations.

Terminate the Client-Patient Relationship When Necessary

In some cases, despite all efforts, it may be necessary to terminate the client-patient relationship. This decision should not be taken lightly, but if a client's behavior repeatedly crosses the line into harassment or abuse, it may be the best course of action to protect the well-being of your staff and other clients.

You Determine the Environment of Your Veterinary Hospital

Setting healthy boundaries with clients who are rude to veterinary staff is essential for maintaining a positive work environment and ensuring the best possible care for animals. By remaining calm and professional, enforcing policies consistently, and seeking solutions, veterinary professionals can navigate challenging situations with grace and dignity. Remember that your primary focus is the well-being of the animals under your care, and maintaining a respectful and safe environment for everyone in your veterinary hospital is crucial in achieving that goal.

Dr. Brett Bingham, DVM

Dr. Brett Bingham, DVM


In the early years of my veterinary practice, I learned the hard way that unintended bad communication can derail your best intentions. Through trial and error, I developed a communication course for myself and my veterinary team to develop confidence and success in the exam room. You can learn these powerful principles too! When great communication practices are put in place AND practiced regularly, you will see consistent growth, happier clients, and better job satisfaction.

Allow me to teach you the tools I’ve learned so that your practice can grow too.

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