Should Vets and Clients Be Facebook Friends?

Veterinary Life Online

It is possible: I have veterinary colleagues who are Facebook friends with many of their clients. Most of them have had a wonderful experience where both parties are respectful of personal boundaries and the doctor is able to be there when needed. These doctors have built stronger relationships with pet owners, and the pets have benefitted from the connection.

But it’s also problematic: I also know veterinarians who feel that being able to leave medicine behind when they go home is their saving grace — and the reason they are able to recharge and arrive fresh at work every day. (I personally fall into this category.) I have talked to veterinarians who have felt abused and taken advantage of by people who were not respectful of their personal time away from the veterinary clinic. I even have a colleague who once declined a pet owner’s request to be friends on Facebook and lost her as a client because of it.

Some veterinarians have taken a different approach to forming online connections by creating a public page. This is a Facebook page others can “like” (rather than an individual others can “friend”). It offers a way for individual veterinarians or entire clinics to share content with anyone who is interested, while still staying one step removed from the person-to-person connection. I have a Facebook page like this, and I enjoy sharing humor, articles and other general interest content there with folks from all over the world. I also have a disclaimer on the page that reminds those who visit it that nothing on that page is intended to be used as medical advice, nor am I open to discussing specific medical questions about individual pets on the page. It’s just for sharing information — not for treating patients online.

There is no doubt that how we communicate as pet owners and caregivers is changing. I believe it is changing for the better, but we are all still figuring out how best to proceed and what to expect from each other. So my answer to the question? I think it’s fine to ask your veterinarian to be Facebook friends with you, but only if you will not be upset if he declines the offer. Many doctors will.

What’s your answer? Do you think pet owners should be Facebook friends with their veterinarians? Are you? If so, what experiences (good or bad) have you had?

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