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Connection and conflict: influence of the hidden curriculum on veterinary residents’ professional identities within the specialty of laboratory animal medicine

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  • 1 Unit for Laboratory Animal Medicine, Office of Research, Medical School, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI
  • | 2 Woodward Center for Excellence in Health Sciences Education and Departments of Medicine, Humanities, and Public Health Sciences, College of Medicine, Pennsylvania State University, Hershey, PA
  • | 3 Department of Comparative Medicine, College of Medicine, Pennsylvania State University, Hershey, PA

Abstract

OBJECTIVE

To explore the role of the hidden curriculum in residents’ development of professional identity during postgraduate training in laboratory animal medicine.

SAMPLE

24 residents enrolled in 1 of 7 laboratory animal medicine training programs in the eastern US.

PROCEDURE

24 qualitative, semistructured interviews were conducted and recorded. Deidentified transcriptions were analyzed by each author using open and axial coding. Constant comparative methodology was used to develop themes and subthemes. Member checks were performed to verify trustability of the conclusions drawn.

RESULTS

3 themes and their related subthemes emerged from the qualitative analysis: 1) building relationships through competent communication (building rapport, practicing clinical empathy, overcoming language barriers, communicating in the “authorized” way, and navigating email limitations), 2) tension within the process of identity formation (acting as the middleman among stakeholders, overcoming the stigma of the policing role, experiencing a lack of power to impact change, and managing a culture of conditional value of veterinary knowledge), and 3) outlets for tension in identity formation (reliance on residency mates, limitations of venting).

EDUCATIONAL RELEVANCE

Our findings suggest that residents are navigating professional identity formation under challenging circumstances that include conflicting stakeholder needs, conditional value of veterinary knowledge, and lack of power to influence change. Residents have limited outlets for relieving the discord between their ideal professional role and their lived experiences. These results provide an important background for refining curricula and creating effective support systems for residents.

Supplementary Materials

    • Supplementary Table S1 (PDF 135 KB)

Contributor Notes

Corresponding author: Dr. Whitcomb (twhitcomb@pennstatehealth.psu.edu)