Navigating identity conflicts within private optometry: New Zealand optometrists’ reflections on a transforming industry


  • J. Handy
  • L. Warren
  • M. Hunt
  • D. Gardner


This research investigated the effects of recent changes in the market environment for optometry services and products on New Zealand optometrists’ professional identity. It was designed to explore two inter-related issues. Firstly, how New Zealand optometrists understand and manage their dual identities as qualified healthcare professionals and specialist eye product retailers within a changing and increasingly competitive business environment. Secondly, how identity tensions function to oppose or strengthen the increasing dominance of large optometry chains. Individual, semi-structured interviews were carried out with twelve male and fourteen female optometrists. Nineteen participants owned, or were employed by, independent optometrists. Seven owned, or worked at, large optometry chains. Six participants were recent graduates, the rest were experienced optometrists. All participants recognised that practicing optometry within the private healthcare sector created the possibility of ethical conflicts between healthcare and business imperatives. All identified primarily as healthcare professionals rather than retailers. There were however considerable differences between participants in the ways this boundary was managed, with participants working within corporate optometry seeming more at ease with the business aspects of their profession. All participants acknowledged that corporate optometry had created radical change in the business environment. There was considerable variation in participants’ evaluation of these changes, often reflecting their location within either corporate or independent practices. Most participants felt that the business environment had reached a new equilibrium, with corporate dominating the lower end mass market and independents retaining their appeal for higher value clients with loyalty to particular practices.





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