The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly impacted dental education and training, according to the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Dentistry, including the career plans of dental students and dental hygiene students.
Researchers at the school emailed an anonymous online survey to dental and dental hygiene students enrolled there. It consisted of 81 questions covering a range of topics including demographics, anticipated educational debt, career plans, readiness to enter clinical practice or residency, and student wellness.
According to the survey, students at all levels of training have become concerned about the limited employment opportunities, the long-term stability of the dental profession, and the interruptions to clinical education and licensure examinations consequent to the pandemic.
More than 10% of all respondents felt anxious about the future of dentistry, with approximately 40% of those in their final year choosing to change their career post-graduation plans.
Students who reported an intent to change their career plans had significantly higher perceived stress and anxiety scores and lower resilience scores than students who reported no change to their career plans.
Compared to white students, more black students, indigenous students, and students of color reported that they had changed their career plans.
“A comprehensive effort inclusive of adeptly designed clinical and curriculum experiences paired with wellness interventions and support tailored to students is needed,” said lead author Dina Garcia, PhD, MPH, assistant professor with the Department of Health Behavior and Policy.
“The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the career plans of dental and dental hygiene students may negatively affect the future dental workforce,” said Jocelyne S. Feine, DDS, MS, editor in chief of JDR Clinical & Translational Research.
“We lack understanding of both the short-term and long-term effects of prolonged and unanticipated public health crises on the dental workforce. More studies are needed to provide this information so that these issues can be appropriately addressed,” Feine said.
The study, “COVID-19 and Dental and Dental Hygiene Students’ Career Plans,” was published by JDR Clinical & Translational Research.