The Veterinary Identity: A Time and Context Model

Armitage-Chan, E and May, S A (2018) The Veterinary Identity: A Time and Context Model. JOURNAL OF VETERINARY MEDICAL EDUCATION, 46 (2). pp. 153-162.

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The nature of professionalism teaching is a current issue in veterinary education, with an individual’s identity as a professional having implications for one’s values and behaviors, as well as for his or her career satisfaction and psychological well-being. An appropriately formed professional identity imparts competence in making complex decisions—those that involve multiple perspectives and are complicated by contextual challenges. It enables an individual to act in a way that aligns with his or her professional values and priorities, and imparts resilience to situations in which one’s actions are dissonant to these personal beliefs. There are challenges in professionalism teaching that relate to student engagement and faculty confidence in this area. However, these cannot be addressed without first defining the veterinary professional identity—in effect, the aim of professionalism teaching. In this article, existing identity models from the wider literature have been analyzed through a veterinary lens. This analysis was then used to construct a model of veterinary professional identity that incorporates the self (personal morals and values), social development (learning from the workplace environment), and professional behaviors. Individuals who form what we have termed self–environment–behavior connections are proposed to be able to use workplace learning opportunities to inform their identity development, such that environmental complexity does not obstruct the link between values and behaviors. Those who fail to connect with the environment in this way may perceive that environmental influences (e.g., the client, financial limitations) are obstructive to enacting their desired identity, and they may struggle with decision making in complex scenarios.

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