Developing a Professional Studies Curriculum to Support Veterinary Professional Identity Formation

Armitage-Chan, E and May, S A (2018) Developing a Professional Studies Curriculum to Support Veterinary Professional Identity Formation. JOURNAL OF VETERINARY MEDICAL EDUCATION.

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Abstract

Professional studies teaching in medical and veterinary education is undergoing a period of change. Traditional approaches, aiming to teach students professional values and behaviors, are being enhanced by curricula designed to support students' professional identity formation. This development offers the potential for improving student engagement and graduates' mental well-being. The veterinary professional identity associated with emotional resilience and success in practice incorporates complexity in professional decision making and the importance of context on behaviors and actions. The veterinarian must make decisions that balance the sometimes conflicting needs of patient, clients, veterinarian, and practice; their subsequent actions are influenced by environmental challenges such as financial limitations, or stress and fatigue caused by a heavy workload. This article aims to describe how curricula can be designed to support the development of such an identity in students. We will review relevant literature from medical education and the veterinary profession to describe current best practices for supporting professional identity formation, and then present the application of these principles using the curriculum at the Royal Veterinary College (RVC) as a case study. Design of a “best practice” curriculum includes sequential development of complex thinking rather than notions of a single best solution to a problem. It requires managing a hidden curriculum that tends to reinforce a professional identity conceived solely on clinical diagnosis and treatment. It includes exposure to veterinary professionals with different sets of professional priorities, and those who work in different environments. It also includes the contextualization of taught content through reflection on workplace learning opportunities.