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Communication identity in veterinary medicine: a grounded theory approach
  1. Silke Gaida1,
  2. Anja Härtl2,3,
  3. Andrea Tipold4 and
  4. Marc Dilly5
  1. 1Clinical Skills Lab, University of Veterinary Medicine Hannover, Hannover, Germany
  2. 2Institute for Medical Education, University Hospital, LMU Munich, Munich, Germany
  3. 3Faculty of Medicine, University of Augsburg, Augsburg, Germany
  4. 4Department of Small Animal Medicine and Surgery, University of Veterinary Medicine Hannover, Hannover, Germany
  5. 5Scil Vet Academy, Scil Animal Care, Viernheim, Germany
  1. Correspondence to Silke Gaida; silke.gaida{at}


It is well established that communication skills are a core competence in veterinary medicine. Most studies in the field of veterinary medicine have focused on communication as an interpersonal skill. Much less is known about communication in the context of professional identity formation. Semistructured interviews with practitioners from companion and farm animal practice, veterinary industry, veterinary research and government service were conducted in Germany in 2016. A grounded theory approach as described by Strauss and Corbin was used to identify characteristics associated with professional communication identity formation in veterinarians. According to the current study, the identity formation process occurs in three steps: existing personal communication identity, socialisation and professional communication identity. Essentials of interpersonal communication, communication interaction experiences at work, acquisition of communication skills and subjective clarification of veterinary communication ability and skills are the key factors associated with this formation process. Since communication skills are of uttermost importance for all fields of veterinary medicine, communication education, and supporting undergraduate students in the process of communication identity formation, should be an important part of the veterinary curriculum. Furthermore, integrating communication skills training in continuing education courses could foster professionalism in veterinary medicine.

  • communication
  • identity
  • grounded theory
  • education
  • veterinary profession

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  • Funding The research was partly funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research. This publication was supported by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft and University of Veterinary Medicine Hannover, foundation within the funding programme Open Access Publishing.

  • Competing interests SG is a research assistant at Clinical Skills Lab, University of Veterinary Medicine, Foundation. Her interests include communication skills, clinical skills and simulation. AH is a research assistant at the Medical Faculty of Augsburg University. She is responsible for faculty development and is experienced in workshops and courses for faculty and students in the areas of medical education, communication and basic research skills. AT is a professor for veterinary neurology at the Small Animal Clinic, University of Veterinary Medicine, Foundation. Her interests include veterinary neurology and education, e-learning, continuing education and assessments. MD is head of the scil vet academy, scil animal care. His interests include clinical skills and simulation, continuing education, mental health in veterinary medicine and learning strategies.

  • Ethics approval This study was reviewed and approved by the University of Veterinary Medicine Hannover doctoral thesis committee, ensuring procedures met ethical guidelines regarding research with human participants. Furthermore, the data protection officer of the University of Veterinary Medicine Hannover verified the observance of the data protection law. All participants gave written informed consent to be part of this study and to accept the audio recording.

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

  • Data sharing statement The Interview guide in detail (in German) and additional data can be made available by the corresponding author on request.

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