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Table of Contents
Year : 2019  |  Volume : 2  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 27-33

Understanding veterinary students' intrinsic, extrinsic, and lifestyle values

Department of Clinical Sciences, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, North Carolina, USA

Date of Web Publication30-May-2019

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Kenneth D Royal
Department of Clinical Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, North Carolina
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/EHP.EHP_4_19

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Introduction: Workplace values are a significant factor in facilitating successful transitions from the classroom to the workforce and in the career development process. Furthermore, employees whose value system aligns with that of their coworkers and leaders report higher rates of job satisfaction. This study sought to determine what current doctor of veterinary medicine (DVM) students' value with respect to intrinsic, extrinsic, and lifestyle factors. Methods: A modified version of the work values checklist was administered to 100 3rd-year students at a large veterinary school located in the United States. Results: The three values rated most important among participants were “Have fun in your life and at work,” “Feel respected for your work,” and “Gain a sense of achievement.” The three values rated least important were “Be involved in politics,” “Compete with others,” and “Live abroad.” Conclusion: Overall, intrinsic and lifestyle values appear to play a larger role in DVM students' workplace preferences than extrinsic values. Researchers are encouraged to replicate this study at other institutions to determine the extent to which findings from this study are generalizable across the veterinary medical profession.

Keywords: Career, generation gap, medical education, motivation, values, veterinary education, veterinary medicine, workforce, workplace

How to cite this article:
Snyder AM, Royal KD. Understanding veterinary students' intrinsic, extrinsic, and lifestyle values. Educ Health Prof 2019;2:27-33

How to cite this URL:
Snyder AM, Royal KD. Understanding veterinary students' intrinsic, extrinsic, and lifestyle values. Educ Health Prof [serial online] 2019 [cited 2023 Mar 27];2:27-33. Available from: https://www.ehpjournal.com/text.asp?2019/2/1/27/259385

  Introduction Top

Workplace values are the values that an individual believes should be satisfied as a result of one's participation in the workplace.[1] These values can be classified as intrinsic, extrinsic, and lifestyle values. Intrinsic values are the intangible reward received in the workplace which provides a sense of inner satisfaction and motivation at work. Extrinsic values are the tangible rewards received in the workplace such as the physical setting, job titles, benefits, and earnings potential. Lifestyle values are the personal values that shape an individual's workplace preferences such as how and where an individual wants to live, how one chooses to spend leisure time, and one's feelings about money.

There is considerable evidence that workplace values influence the occupational decision-making process.[2],[3] Workplace values are a significant factor in facilitating successful transitions from the classroom to the workforce [4] and in the career development process.[5],[6],[7] Furthermore, employees whose value system aligns with that of their coworkers and leaders report higher rates of job satisfaction.[8]

In recent years, the veterinary job market has been competitive. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects veterinary jobs will grow at a rate of 19% from 2016 to 2026, and 15,000 new jobs will open in this sector by the year 2026.[9] An expanding job market means veterinary graduates have more employment options and employers, in turn, must do more to attract and retain top-tier candidates.

The purpose of this study was to identify what current doctor of veterinary medicine (DVM) program students value with respect to intrinsic, extrinsic, and lifestyle factors. Information gleaned from this study can be used to help veterinary students become cognizant of what matters most to them when seeking employment, thereby increasing the likelihood of accepting a position, in which they will be successful. Veterinary employers can use this information to better understand the workplace values of early career veterinarians, enabling employers to attract and retain top-tier candidates. Veterinary faculty and administrators can use this information to better understand students' preferences and to inform curricular decisions.

  Methods Top


All 3rd-year students (n = 100) in the DVM program at (Anonymous University) participated in this study. Students' ages ranged from 23 to 43 with a median of 25 and a mean of 25.8 (standard deviation [SD] = 3.2). With respect to gender, 76 (76%) identified as female and 24 (24%) as male. With respect to race/ethnicity, 80 (80%) identified as White and 20 (20%) of students identified as members of one of seven minority groups.

Context, instrumentation, and procedures

Students were administered a modified version of the work values checklist (WVC)[10] as part of a course assignment in the introduction to clinical practice course. The goal of the course is to provide students with practical clinical instruction in the areas of small animal wellness, general surgery, diagnostic/emergency techniques, and practice evaluation. The WVC was identified as a useful tool for helping students identify the intrinsic, extrinsic, and lifestyle factors they purport to value the most. The modified-WVC was administered as the first component of a larger three-pronged assignment. More specifically, students first completed the modified-WVC and identified their top five workplaces. Next, they were required to visit three veterinary practices of their choice. During these visits, students were asked to collect information about the clinic and ask questions to help them assess how well the values of each organization align with their own career values. Finally, students were required to write a reflective essay outlining which organization they believed would be the best fit for them and why. The purpose of this multifaceted assessment was to help students become cognizant of the role of values congruence between individuals and organizations and to gain experience assessing their own fit with an organization.

Although the instrument is referred to as a checklist, it is truly an inventory with recommended scoring procedures. The instrument consists of 45 values and utilizes a rating scale of 1–5 (1 = least important; 5 = most important). Due to issues of relevance relating to a population of veterinary medical students, six items appearing on the original WVC were modified or replaced. With respect to the modifications, two related to intrinsic values, three related to extrinsic values, and one related to lifestyle values. Modified items are noted in the results section of this paper. Similar to the recommendations provided by Monster.com, students were asked to identify the values they rated with a score of 5 and instructed to select the five values they deem most important among those options. Students were then asked to identify themes among their top five and to consider how these values might influence both their search for an employer and their potential fit in an organization.

The modified-WVC was administered electronically using Qualtrics Survey software (Provo, UT) during the 1st week of class. Students were given up to 3 weeks to complete the modified-WVC. All students participated resulting in a 100% response rate. Permission to conduct this study was approved by the Institutional Review Board at the (Anonymous University).


Data were analyzed by calculating descriptive statistics and inferential statistics (e.g., independent samples t-tests). Significance testing was performed with P < 0.05. Since inferential tests involved multiple comparisons, a Bonferroni correction was applied to control for compounding error. The Bonferroni correction reduced P < 0.001.

  Results Top

Cronbach's alpha coefficients were calculated for all 45 items, as well as each subset of items by values type. Results indicate the overall scores obtained from the modified-WVC have a reliability estimate of 0.847. Reliability coefficients were 0.765 for intrinsic items, 0.663 for extrinsic items, and 0.623 for lifestyle items.

[Table 1] provides a breakdown of students' responses for each item, which includes counts of rating scale category selection and summary statistics. [Table 2] provides a breakdown of descriptive statistics by subcategory.
Table 1: Breakdown of student responses to the modified-work values checklist (values sorted by sum)

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Table 2: Breakdown of student responses by type of values

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Overall and subscore results were compared based on the gender and race/ethnicity. With respect to gender, females (M = 4.41, SD = 0.68) scored the item Save Money (Lifestyle) higher than males (M = 3.92, SD = 1.18), P = 0.012. Similarly, females (M = 4.47, SD = 0.95) rated the item Be a Homeowner (Lifestyle) higher than males (M = 3.83, SD = 1.37), P = 0.011. Both items, however, were not statistically significantly different after the Bonferroni correction.

With respect to race/ethnicity, minority students rated three items higher than White students. More specifically, minority students (M = 4.26, SD = 1.20) rated Commitment to diversity/inclusion (Intrinsic) higher than White (M = 3.50, SD = 1.08) students, P = 0.007; minority students (M = 4.16, SD = 0.77) rated Influence Others (Intrinsic) higher than White (M = 3.69, SD = 0.94) students, P = 0.048; and minority students (M = 2.89, SD = 1.29) rated Live in a Big City (Lifestyle) higher than White (M = 2.11, SD = 0.99) students, P = 0.04. White students (M = 3.05, SD = 1.27), however, rated Live in a Rural Setting (Lifestyle) higher than minority students (M = 2.26, SD = 1.28), P = 0.017.

  Discussion Top

Substantive findings

The three values ranked “most important” among the participants, defined as those values which received the highest quantity of 5 ranking across subcategories, were Have fun in your life and at work, Feel respected for your work, and Gain a sense of achievement [Table 3].
Table 3: Top values per rating of “most important”

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The three values rated “least important” among participants, as defined as those values which received the highest quantity of 1 rating across subcategories, where Be involved in politics, Compete with others and Live abroad [Table 4].
Table 4: Bottom values per rating of “least important”

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None of the top or bottom three overall values were extrinsic values. This may suggest that extrinsic values, the tangible reward received in the workplace such as job titles, awards, benefits, and bonuses, are less likely to drive participant behaviors. Instead, intrinsic, intangible rewards, such as respect and sense of achievement, and lifestyle preference, such as where one lives and how one chooses to spend leisure time, appear to play a larger role in participant workplace preferences. These findings are consistent with the previous research which finds Millennials value the impact they are able to make on their community and free time and do not define themselves through their job.[11]

The intrinsic values rated as most important were Feel respected for your work, Gain a sense of achievement, and Opportunities for lifelong learning. These top intrinsic values speak to a general desire among the participants to feel valued for the work they do while striving for continuous improvement. A previous study conducted at (Anonymous University), in which the current cohort of students participated also identified a desire to learn and continuously improve among veterinary students.[12]

The intrinsic values rated lowest included Compete with others, Have lots of public contact, and Take risk/have physical challenges. It is interesting that participants rated Compete with others lowest in this category, as competition is often a central theme in veterinary medical education. Competition with peers for admissions, class rank, and postgraduation opportunities permeates the experience, yet there is a clear desire to avoid a competitive work environment. This finding may provide veterinary faculty and administrators additional insight into student preferences with respect to shaping the learning environment.[13],[14]

A concerning discovery was that nearly two-thirds of the participants (74%) assigned the intrinsic value, Have lots of public contact, a score of 3 or less. Veterinary medicine is a high-touch industry characterized by close relationships between clients and the veterinary team. Veterinarians are frequently viewed as leaders in their community and as such are sought out for advice and assistance both within and outside of the workplace. This incongruence between the realities of a veterinary professional and the preferences of participants could be a potential source of tension in the workplace.

The extrinsic values rated most important were Be mentored, Set your own hours/have flexibility, and Have regular work hours. When reflecting on the top extrinsic values, mentorship clearly predominated in this category with 94 (94%) participants assigning this value a score of 4 or greater. Mentorship has changed significantly since its conception and current health-care professionals have differing views on the requirements of a mentoring relationship.[15] The American Animal Hospital Association defines mentoring as “an ongoing relationship between two individuals who are committed to improving their professional environment.”[16] While it is not known what mentorship means to participants, by taking into account the intrinsic values participants rated highest (a sense of achievement, respect for their work, and lifelong learning), we speculate that participants may view mentorship as a means of receiving feedback and ensuring personal growth.

Extrinsic values that were rated lowest included Work on the edge, in a high-risk environment, and Be an entrepreneur. It is logical that both Work on the edge, in a high-risk environment, and Be an entrepreneur would be rated similarly as entrepreneurs are, by definition, inclined to take on greater risk than normal in order to pursue their desired goal. These findings are also not surprising when considering the intrinsic values that scored the lowest: Take risk/have physical challenges and Compete with others. Thus, we speculate that, as a group, the cohort surveyed would prefer a lower risk, more stable work environment such as a supporting role within an existing organization.

The lifestyle values rated as most important were Have fun in your life and at work, Spend time with family, and Be a homeowner. Have fun in your life and at work was the highest rated value across all subcategories, receiving a score of 5 from 92 (92%) participants and only 2 (2%) participants assigning this value a score >4. Clearly, having fun both in life and in the workplace is of high value to the participants surveyed. Participants also want to be able to spend time with family. We surmise that a desire to balance work and family also influenced the cohorts' top extrinsic values which included Set your own hours/have flexibility and Have regular work hours. Finally homeownership was highly rated by participants, an interesting insight given that homeownership rates among Millennials ages 25–34 is 8% lower than Baby Boomers and 8.4% lower than Generation Xers in the same age group.[17]

The lifestyle values rated lowest by participants included Be involved in politics, Live abroad, and Live in a big city. Be involved in politics was the lowest rated value across all subcategories with 77 (77%) participants assigning this values a score of 2 or less. This desire to avoid office politics appears supported by the low value placed on competition with others discussed previously. However, it bears considering that feelings regarding national/regional/local politics may have influenced the participant's perception. The low value placed on living abroad, when viewed in combination with the high value assigned to spending time with family, is not surprising given that living aboard generally means relocating long distances family. This may pose challenges for industries interested in expanding the global reach of veterinary medicine.

When evaluating participants' feelings with respect to the desired location, it is important to note differences with respect to race/ethnicity. Minority students rated Live in a big city higher than White students with means of 2.89 (SD = 1.29) and 2.11 (SD = 0.99), respectively. While White students rated Live in a Rural Setting higher than minority students with means of 3.05 (SD = 1.27) and 2.26 (SD = 1.28), respectively. These findings align with nationwide population trends reported by the Pew Research Center which found that urban and suburban counties are becoming racially and ethnically diverse at a much faster pace than rural counties.[18] The Pew Research Center also found that while only about 1 in 10 suburban and rural counties are majority non-White, Whites have become the minority in most urban counties since 2000.[18] Rural veterinary establishments have historically struggled to attract and retain employees. Certainly, these results suggest that placing veterinarians, especially minority veterinarians, in these underserved areas may continue to be problematic.

Looking further at differences with respect to race/ethnicity, minority students rated two intrinsic values higher than White students: Commitment to diversity/inclusion (minority: M = 4.26, SD = 1.20; White: M = 3.50, SD = 1.08) and Influence Others (minority: M = 4.16, SD = 0.77; White: M = 3.69, SD = 0.94). Regrettably, the differing perceptions of the value of diversity/inclusivity between minority and White participants in this study is similar in nature to the previous studies on perceptions, in which White students rated institutions as more welcoming and accepting than their underrepresented student counterparts.[19] Veterinary medicine has been shown to be one of the least diverse professions in America.[19],[20],[21] In 2011, a nationwide survey of all 28 US veterinary colleges showed that only 15.6% of participants self-identified as being a member of a racial or ethnic group recognized as underrepresented in veterinary medicine.[19] The results of this study suggest there is still considerable work to be done to elevate the value of diversity and inclusivity within the profession. This is consistent with the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges' (AAVMC) previous finding that, while awareness around diversity in the profession has increased, substantial progress has not been made.[22]

Implications and future research

There are currently four generations of veterinarians in the workforce: The Silent Generation, Baby Boomers, Generation X, and Millennials. While we caution readers against stereotyping any individual based on their generation, the previous studies have confirmed that there are some discernible differences among generation groups.[11],[23],[24],[25] Just as it is important to be sensitive to other diverse factors in the workplace, so is it important to appreciate the differences in preferences across generations. Veterinary graduates and employers need to understand generational differences as they affect many facets of the workplace including recruitment, building teams, retaining, motivating, and managing employees. This study helps to deepen our understanding of the participants' workplace values and provides students, employers, and veterinary educators with information regarding these preferences. Workplace values alignment can facilitate more successful transitions from the classroom to the workforce and increase job satisfaction. By helping students become more cognizant of what matters most to them, we anticipate they will be better prepared to assess their employment opportunities and gauge organizational fit. Furthermore, we feel increased understanding of the needs of early career veterinarians can help employers attract and retain employees, thereby reducing the cost associated with employee turnover.

There are numerous avenues for future research. One worthwhile project might evaluate whether identification of workplace values assists students in evaluating employment opportunities. Another project might involve testing Holland's theory of person and environment fit, a well-known organizational psychology theory that attempts to understand the interaction between personal and environmental values. Finally, it would be worthwhile to determine if the use of the modified WVC results in lower rates of employee turnover among early career veterinarians.


Two important limitations were identified with respect to this study. First, the participants were all students at (Anonymous University) and all members of the same class cohort; therefore it is possible the findings are institution-specific and/or cohort-specific. Additional research would be necessary to determine the generalizability of these findings. Second, students surveyed were relatively homogeneous with respect to race and gender. However, the demographic characteristics of students surveyed virtually mirror those characteristics of students nationally according to statistics published by the AAVMC.[26] Larger samples with greater numbers of minority students are necessary to discern if differences based on race/ethnicity and gender are real or merely statistical artifacts.

  Conclusion Top

Workplace values are the values that an individual believes should be satisfied as a result of their participation in the workplace.[1] These values guide a person's actions and preferences for outcomes. The purpose of this study was to learn what current DVM program students value with respect to intrinsic, extrinsic, and lifestyle factors. Reflecting on those values rated highest and lowest both overall, and in each subcategory, we start to gain a clearer picture of what veterinary students are looking for in the workplace. Results indicate DVM students value having fun both in their personal life and workplace and time to spend with family. They appear motivated not by public recognition, prestige, or reward, but by the personal sense of fulfillment and achievement they gain through the work they do. The opportunity for lifelong learning is important, and while they are seeking financial stability, monetary reward is not the only driver of outcomes.

These findings may help employers better understand what early career veterinarians value in the workplace, thus increasing the odds of attracting and retaining the most desirable candidates. Similarly, veterinary faculty and administrators will benefit from this research as they will better understand students' intrinsic, extrinsic, and lifestyle values, thus informing curricular decisions and pedagogical practices. Finally, these findings may help veterinary students become cognizant of what matters most to them when they seek employment, thereby increasing the likelihood of accepting a position in which the individual will be successful.

Financial support and sponsorship


Conflicts of interest

Dr. Royal is the editor-in-chief of Education in the Health Professions. All peer-review activities relating to this manuscript were independently performed by other members of the editorial board.

  References Top

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  [Table 1], [Table 2], [Table 3], [Table 4]

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