Clinical decision making in veterinary practice

Everitt, Sally (2011) Clinical decision making in veterinary practice. PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.

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The aim of this study is to develop an understanding of the factors which influence veterinary surgeons’ clinical decision making during routine consultations.


The research takes a qualitative approach using video-cued interviews, in which one of the veterinary surgeon’s own consultations is used as the basis of a semi-structured interview exploring decision making in real cases. The research focuses primarily on small animal consultations in first opinion practice, however small numbers of consultations from different types of practice are included to highlight contextual influences on decision making.


The study reveals differences between the way clinical decision making is taught and the way that it is carried out in practice. In comparison to human medicine, decision making in veterinary practice appears to be more a negotiated activity, relying on social context, which takes account of the animals’ and owners’ circumstances, as well as biomedical information.


Veterinary practice especially that provided for companion animals has similarities with medical practice, however there are also differences caused by the status of the animal; the contrast between predominately fee for service veterinary care and state funded medical provision; and the acceptability of euthanasia as a “treatment” option.

Clinical decision making in veterinary practice is affected by a range of factors including the resources of the owner, the value placed on the individual animal and the circumstances in which the decision making takes place. Veterinary surgeons in practice need teaching and evidence based resources to take account of these factors in order to provide the best care to their animal patients. Further sociologically informed research is required to provide a greater understanding of the contextual factors which influence clinical decision making.

Item Type: Thesis (University of Nottingham only) (PhD)
Supervisors: Cobb, Malcolm
Pilnick, Alison
Waring, Justin
Keywords: vets, veterinary surgeons, clinical decision making, veterinary medicine
Subjects: S Agriculture > SF Animal culture
Faculties/Schools: UK Campuses > Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences > School of Veterinary Medicine and Science
Item ID: 12051
Depositing User: EP, Services
Date Deposited: 27 Oct 2011 10:10
Last Modified: 15 Dec 2017 17:39

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