Managing professional identity within a changing market environment: New Zealand optometrists’ responses to the growth of corporate optometry

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Taylor and Francis Group for the Royal Society of New Zealand
© 2019 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives License (, which permits non-commercial re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, and is not altered, transformed, or built upon in any way.
This research investigated the effects of changes in the market environment for optometry services and products on the professional identity of New Zealand optometrists. It explored three issues. First, ways participants’ location within either the independent or corporate sectors shaped their professional identities. Second, ways potential ethical conflicts between participants’ healthcare and retailing identities were resolved. Last, participants’ opinions concerning the future of their profession. Twelve male and fourteen female optometrists were interviewed. Nineteen participants worked within independent optometry practices. Seven worked within practices that were part of international optometry chains. Six participants were recent graduates, the rest experienced optometrists. All participants identified primarily as healthcare professionals. All recognised that practising optometry within a commercial market created the possibility of ethical conflicts between healthcare and business imperatives. There were differences in the ways participants managed this boundary, with participants working within corporate optometry seeming more comfortable with the business aspects of their profession. All participants thought the profession was changing and several suggested that the future of independent optometry was limited. The article concludes that recent changes within the market environment of optometry have heightened tensions between optometrists’ medical and entrepreneurial identities and contributed to changing work patterns within the profession.
Optometry, business environment, professional identity, role tension
Kotuitui: New Zealand Journal Of Social Sciences Online, 2019, 2020, 15 (1), pp. 204 - 216