Objectives: To explore and compare how pre-doctoral dentistry (BDS) and oral health (BOH) students characterise their future professional work at the start and end of their first-year professional programme.
Materials and methods: All BDS and BOH students were given an anonymous survey on the first and last days of their 2009 course. Start and end surveys (ES) were completed by 75% of BDS (51) and 83% of BOH students (33). This paper examines students’ responses to two questions asking them to identify a situation characterising their future professional work and a professional difficulty they would likely encounter. Student responses were analysed inductively to identify key themes and confirm each theme’s ‘weighting’ based on frequency of mention.
Results: Students’ answers to both questions revealed eight characterisations of future professional work involving the following: restorative tasks, patient-related concerns, patient emotion and behaviour, population-level/public health concerns, disease prevention and monitoring, communication, teamwork and self-management. In ES responses, BDS students emphasised restorative tasks as central to a dentist’s work, and in both surveys perceived ‘dealing with patients’ as a central difficulty. In contrast, BOH students’ answers to both questions revealed a patient care emphasis, and in both surveys, BOH students emphasised patient-related concerns as a likely difficulty.
Conclusion: Bachelor of Dentistry students characterised their work as primarily interventive, and BOH students, as primarily patient-centred, communicative, and preventive. Whilst BDS students apparently valued restorative capabilities, BOH students valued the ability to ensure patient well-being. Further research will examine students’ differing perceptions and how these change over time.