Background: The perspective of participating students in a primary dental care outreach (PDCO) course, with regard to clinical and educational value, has informed course development and delivery.
Objectives: To evaluate students’ perception of the PDCO experience including clinical experience gained, teaching and learning and the teaching environment.
Methods: Likert Scale-based questionnaires were completed: (A) prior to the start of PDCO teaching, (B1) after one term, (B2) after one year and (C) for entry year 2001 students at completion. Additionally, a cohort of entry year 2000 students with no PDCO experience was surveyed at the end of their 4th year. Factor Analysis with Crohnbach’s alpha was used to investigate perception of (i) confidence and skills in treating child patients, (ii) confidence and skills in treating adult patients; (iii) general clinical skills and experience; (iv) team working. Data from entry years 2000–2003 were analysed using ANOVA and independent sample t-tests.
Results: For entry years 2001 and 2002, perceived confidence and skills in treating child patients and general clinical experience increased, although for entry year 2002 students the levels of perceived general confidence and skills achieved after 1 year were similar to the entry year 2000 cohort who had received no PDCO teaching. There was consistently high satisfaction with teamworking. After 2 years in PDCO, 11 of the 13 overall satisfaction scores were over 70%.
Conclusion: The majority of students perceive PCDO as a valuable component of professional training and development. Further evaluation, including analysis of value for money, would help to inform funding decisions and further curriculum development.