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Assessing short and long-term educational impact of visits to hospice via a combination of qualitative methods

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Abstract

While qualitative methods have gained considerable recognition in medical education research, employing multiple qualitative data sources in assessing long-term educational impact is rare. Utilising in-depth data analysis method to six cross-sectional cohorts (2004–2009) of students’ reflection papers (= 213), this article demonstrates how students experienced subtle but important shifts in their attitudes (including personal, professional and spiritual domains) after making field visits to a hospice centre as part of the Special Needs Dentistry module. For retrospective assessment of learning retention, a pilot focus group was conducted with three junior faculty members who participated in the field visits to a hospice during their own undergraduate training. A subsequent focus group was conducted with graduates of the 2008 (n = 8) cohort using a refined discussion guide arising from the analysis of pilot group results. Graduates were unanimous in stating that the visits had sown ‘seeds’ in their minds and hearts, seeds which started to grow after they completed dental school and began to practice. This is demonstrative of the long-term positive educational impact of the pedagogical design that entailed a special site visit coupled with post-visit debrief and written reflection.

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