Morris, G. (2018). Identity Conflicts and Emotional Labour in the Veterinary Profession (Doctoral dissertation, University of Westminster).
This research investigates professional identity conflicts and the emotional labour results from the attempt of reconciling the ideal and real selves. Four distinct elements are identified as the triggers of these conflicts. Specifically, professional, commercial, ethical and emotional dilemmas emerge when focused on the challenges vets experience in small animal clinics. This thesis revealed how recent changes in the veterinary profession have exacerbated the emotional costs of the tensions between their ideals and realities. The classical literature on professions and professionalism is rather unrealistic to aspire, but its core tenets continue to inform more contemporary research on professional occupations and professional identities. Their implications often show conflict between the ideal professional, opposed to the reality of the professional in everyday practice. Drawing upon service quality models, this thesis also draws attention to the complications in veterinary services due to the triadic nature of the vet-pet-client interactions. While the intensified emotions between the client and the pet have been recognised, the consequences of their effects have not been addressed in research to date. Although the construct of ‘the client’ governs notions of professional demeanour and accomplishment of expertise, this does not imply that technical knowledge is not valued. However, it is not well articulated into professionalism in the veterinary profession. To address this gap, face-to-face semi-structured interviews were conducted with fifty veterinary surgeons practicing in small animal clinics in the UK. The tension evidenced in the interviews was indicative of the gap between the service ideals espoused by the ideology of professionalism and the reality of actual practice. The data point to the disillusionment vets feel at not being able to live up to their professional ideals. This has resulted in intensifying the existing pressures and unrealistic expectations for professionals, which poses a risk to the career span of professionals and the future prospects of veterinary profession. Thematic analysis was employed to identify the elements that trigger conflicts of vets’ professional identity. The conclusions highlight the distinctiveness of professional emotional labour in the veterinary profession and give rise to dimensions of conflict. Intensification of professional labour is found to be closely interlinked with increasing rates of clinical depression and emotional burden. Results suggest future research needs to focus ways of deducing emotional labour among veterinary professionals, who alarmingly in their discourse consider suicide as a logical extension of euthanasia.