Student perspectives on their recent dental outreach placement experiences

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Abstract

Background

Dental schools are developing new curricula, with outreach placements enhancing the hospital-based training.

Objectives

To assess the students' experience of outreach as one component of determining the value and feasibility of outreach placements.

Intervention

Six-week block placements for 10 undergraduates and 3 weeks for 11 hygiene and hygiene and therapy students in existing primary care clinics, in areas of need, to work supervised by local dentists.

Methods

Semi-structured interviews with 20 students by staff independent of the course team. Interviews were audio-recorded, transcribed and content analysed before being verified by a second observer. Findings were triangulated against a peer-run focus group and students' clinical records.

Results

Students were very positive about their experience and the potential role of outreach training in dental education. They described: gaining greater experience of new types of patients and their communities; learning from broader clinical experience, alternative approaches and practicing or observing dentistry in different settings; the benefits of team working; and, acquiring a more holistic and pragmatic view of health care. Many students reported gaining greater confidence, wider awareness of potential careers in dentistry and a greater sense of realism in their experience. Some reflected on their own training needs. Students also discussed the importance of preparation for the placements and the merits of different styles of supervision.

Conclusion

Dental outreach training can provide students with valuable learning experience in a range of areas. It requires careful management to ensure those experiences match individuals' needs and the programme's purposes.

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