2013-Caroline Clarke

“Who’d be a vet, eh?” Veterinary Surgeons, Professional Identities and Ideal Selves

Dr Caroline Clarke, Open University


We set out to explore the day-to-day experiences of being a veterinary surgeon in contemporary times.  Academic literature highlighted suicide rates among vets, their poor mental health and high churn rates, but we sought to understand these as a set of enduring ubiquitous patterns within the profession, rather than a psychological ‘resilience’ or coping perspective. We conducted 75 interviews and ethnographic observations of equine small animal, large animal and vets in England, and analysed our data to identify the most pervasive themes.  

From this analysis we published in academic journals (2 x 4* and 1 x 3*), practitioner veterinary journals, and in the media: The Conversation and The Times. We were invited to present our findings at the veterinary conference Mind Matters, as well as a conference jointly hosted by Veterinary Management Group (VMG) and the Society of Practicing Veterinary Surgeons. We presented one piece on doubt and perfectionism and co-convened a colloquium on the gendered organisation of veterinary practice. Following this, we were contacted by 15 veterinary HR directors to discuss our research with them. 

During this meeting we raised the issue that despite the current shortage of vets, nobody had researched vets exiting the profession.  Subsequently we applied for competitive funding from VMG with a bid called ‘Returning Vets to practice?’.  We are currently analysing the data from 20 interviews, and will present our data at 1) 2021 VMG conference, and 2) conduct a webinar for the 14K members of Facebook Group ‘Vets stay, go or diversify’