Preparing for the dental team: investigating the views of dental and dental care professional students

Susan Morison, John Marley, Mike Stevenson, Sharon Milner
European Journal of Dental Education: Official Journal of the Association for Dental Education in Europe 2008, 12 (1): 23-8
There is growing evidence to support the contention that interprofessional education (IPE) at both pre and post-qualification levels will improve professionals' abilities to work more effectively in a team and to communicate more effectively with colleagues and patients. This body of evidence, however, is primarily concerned with nursing, medical and associated professionals and students, and there are few studies that include dental students and particularly where learning occurs with the dental care professions (DCP). The purpose of this study was to examine the attitudes of dental and DCP students to IPE and to highlight some of the barriers to developing programmes for these students. It was also intended to examine the students' awareness of dental and DCP roles and responsibilities. Two questionnaires, the Readiness for Interprofessional Learning Scale (RIPLS) and a dental roles and responsibilities questionnaire, were distributed to all 5 years of dental students (n = 189) based at Queen's University Belfast (QUB), both years of the dental hygiene students (n = 8) also based at QUB, as well as to final year dental nursing students based at Belfast Institute of Further and Higher Education (BIFHE) (n = 64). The results indicated that dental and DCP students had a positive attitude to IPE as a means to improve teamwork and communication skills but there are potential obstacles as demonstrated by the differing perceptions of each of the three groups about the roles of the other. Some aspects of practice, involving personal care and advice to patients, were regarded by all groups as a shared role but the dental hygiene students regarded themselves as having a shared role in several tasks identified by dental and dental nurse students as the sole role of the dentist. Dental hygiene students in this study did not see their role as primarily to support the dentist but more as a partner in care. Professional identity and its development are issues that must be considered by dental and DCP educators developing IPE initiatives.

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