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QUESTIONS of identity and being are central to philosophy, but they also have practical relevance in professional terms. Professional identity – how we perceive ourselves as professionals – has implications for our behaviour, the ethical principles we ascribe to, and the way we interact with the world. Developing professional identity is a crucial part of veterinary training.
Vets, like other professionals, are influenced by their occupational culture. Academic knowledge alone, without the ability to fit in and work with the norms and values held by others in the profession and observe expected standards of professional behaviour, would leave veterinary graduates ill-equipped for professional life. Yet although professional identity has received extensive attention in medical and other professional literature, it is almost absent from veterinary discourse.
As with many professions, as vets we have a social contract with our clients and society. Similarly to medicine, by the end of training, vets are expected to behave professionally and uphold a range of ethical principles (Monrouxe and Rees 2012). In medicine, professional identity formation has been described as the transformative process from lay person to physician (Holden and others 2012), and involves the development of core values, self-awareness and moral principles. Monrouxe (2010) suggests that the development of medical identity is as important as the acquisition of knowledge to medical training, stating that medical education is as much about learning to talk and act like a doctor as it is about learning the content …