Can I be a student again? How medical graduates make the decision to return to dental school prior to a career in oral and maxillofacial surgery
Oral and maxillofacial surgery (OMFS) trainees in the UK have traditionally completed their dental undergraduate studies prior to returning to medical school. Recently, there have been increasing numbers of medical graduates who return to dental school before embarking on OMFS specialist training. There is limited research into the career motivation within this group and little guidance on how they may integrate the dental undergraduate course into their postgraduate training path. This study aims to evaluate these factors in more detail.
Questionnaires and focus groups were used to evaluate prior surgical experience of qualified medics who return to dental school with the intention of pursuing a career in OMFS, along with the factors that affect the timing of their return to dental school.
The average age of medical graduates entering dental school decreased during the study period. The average number of months each cohort of students spent as a practicing doctor prior to starting dentistry also reduced. Postgraduate experience in OMFS was highly variable, but the numbers of students who received alternative exposure to OMFS, such as undergraduate special study modules, medical school elective or taster weeks, increased. The key barriers that were carefully considered by these trainees before returning to university included the perceived increase in the length of training, trainees' prior surgical experience, financial implications and the impact on quality of life.
A trainee's decision to return to study dentistry is a multifactorial process. Understanding when trainees decide to return to sit their dental degree is vital not only to provide guidance for future trainees but also to assist future workforce planning, thus aiding training, education and development within OMFS.