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The modern UK veterinary profession: photo-elicitation interviewing reveals that small animal and surgical images dominate
  1. Abbie Ward1 and
  2. Stephen A May2
  1. 1 Student, Royal Veterinary College, Hatfield, Hertfordshire, UK
  2. 2 Department of Veterinary Clinical Sciences, Royal Veterinary College, Hatfield, Hertfordshire, UK
  1. E-mail for correspondence; smay{at}


More than 80 per cent of vets are employed in clinical practice but other veterinary roles are vital for society. However, even clinical practice does not seem to fulfil some modern graduates, and an increasing number of veterinarians are leaving the profession to pursue other careers. Research suggests that less than 50 per cent of veterinarians would choose to undertake their career path again, so the profession faces a ‘workforce crisis’. Through semi-structured photo-elicitation interviewing, this study has explored the image that students embarking on veterinary education have of the profession. The students’ dominant image of the profession, and their perception of the public image, was small animal practice. A large proportion (n=16, 80 per cent) of participants saw themselves working in clinical practice, with many (n=8, 40 per cent) aspiring to focus on surgery. The image of the veterinary profession has changed since the 1970s when the James Herriot mixed practice model was well known to the public. The dominant small animal and surgical image emerging demonstrates a need for members of the profession to work together to educate public and entrant perception, emphasising the diversity of veterinary careers and their value to society, to allow aspiring veterinary entrants to develop a range of career goals.

  • surveys
  • veterinary profession
  • preclinical education
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  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Ethics approval The research received ethical approval from the RVC Social Sciences Ethical Review Board (URN SR2017-1091).

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Correction notice This article has been corrected since it was published Online First. The title has been updated.

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