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What does it mean to be a vet?
  1. Rosie Allister, BSc (Hons), BVSc, MSc, MRCVS
  1. Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies, University of Edinburgh, Midlothian EH25 9RG, UK
  1. e-mail: rosie.allister{at}

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PROFESSIONAL identity – how we see ourselves as professionals – our values, beliefs and norms of behaviour are central to the trust placed in our profession by society. It has implications for our ethics, the way we make sense of our professional lives and how we survive or thrive in our environment (Allister 2015).

Individual professional identity and cultural and identity issues in the wider profession are a relatively new area of exploration in veterinary medicine, although in other professions they have been discussed for some time. Developing a professional identity is dynamic; it is a process of becoming (Scanlon 2011) and is seen as a crucial part of medical education and professionalism (Wong and Trollope-Kumar 2014). Understanding professionalism offers an opportunity to examine all aspects of veterinary life. Friedson (1970) suggests that the word profession has a dual meaning; first, the concept of occupation and, secondly, a promise or vow. This second part concerns everyone; veterinarians as professionals, clients and the wider society. What is the promise that the veterinary profession makes to wider society? Do we achieve what we set out to? And how does that translate to a personal level, to vets making sense of and enacting in our working environments?

We know that for vets their career and profession can be central to their identity and sense of self (Page Jones and Abbey 2015) and that identification with the veterinary profession is stronger than identification with the organisations that vets work for. Yet we also know that for half of recent graduate vets, their expectations do not match the reality of their working lives (VetFutures …

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