The Touro College of Dental Medicine (TCDM) adopted a game show format to teach its second-year students about anesthesia during its first “Tournament of Local Anesthesia Champions,” held as part of the school’s Pain and Anxiety Control course.
The experience was developed by Howard Israel, DDS, clinical professor of dental medicine, and Raquel Rozdolski, DMD, clinical assistant professor of dental medicine. Pain and Anxiety Control is considered a cornerstone of the second year as these students prepare for their first patient care experiences in their third year.
With the didactic portion of the course taking place online due to the pandemic, the course directors sought to engage students one-on-one. By taking the material a step further, TCDM said, the unique learning session brought the patient “off the page,” providing a simulated clinical experience.
“Having provided students with foundational knowledge of anatomy, physiology, nerve function, and pharmacology through standard lectures for the first half of the course, we took a moment to reevaluate our approach, asking ourselves what is lacking from these sessions,” said Israel. “The goal of this course is to get students ready for patient care, and so we decided to try a new tactic to help them put all of the concepts together.”
Randomly divided into breakout sessions, all 114 members of the class of 2023 were presented with 15 real-life clinical scenarios, each requiring pain control. With eight minutes on the clock per case, the students worked together within their individual teams to answer a series of situational questions, from “What local anesthetic technique will achieve pain control?” to “Which local anesthetic drug will you choose and why?” before rejoining the main session to present and discuss their answers with peers and faculty.
While the tournament was designed to challenge students and test their knowledge, the professors decided not to assign them a grade based on the “correctness” of their answers. Instead, the professors wanted the students to focus on learning and truly understanding the material instead of being concerned about achieving an A.
“As this course is the D2’s first introduction to clinical-based cases, we wanted to ensure that we encouraged an open dialogue between all parties to go over the reasons why you would choose a local anesthetic, or why you would choose a different injection,” said Rozdolski.
“We didn’t want students to feel penalized for giving a wrong answer. Rather, we wanted to gauge and strengthen their comprehension of the material without the pressure of receiving a grade,” Rozdolski said.
“All too often, students seem to be so focused on their grades that this gets in the way of their education,” said Israel. “Getting the grade is important, but learning is the key. We wanted to create an environment where the students were focused solely on understanding the material and thinking critically about how they would approach each case as a practitioner.”
Fun and entertaining while reinforcing critical concepts, the tournament fostered an active learning environment that is sorely lacking in traditional dental education settings, TCDM said.
By having the opportunity to exchange ideas with experienced dental professionals and their classmates, the students gained valuable insight into how different courses of treatment can produce similar outcomes as well as into the vital importance of intraprofessional collaboration and communication, TCDM said.
“As students entering the healthcare field, it’s important for us to challenge what we initially think is right and listen to the input of our colleagues,” said student Marc Generowicz. “One memorable moment was when my peers challenged an answer I gave to one of the questions. This lead to a dialogue between myself and my classmates, creating a meaningful learning experience because the whole class was involved in the conversation.”
As the second half of the spring semester gets underway, the students are excited to apply their skills and knowledge in the school’s simulation laboratory to practice giving injections on anatomically correct manikins, TCDM said. While this year’s tournament was held virtually, the professors are looking forward to holding next year’s in person.
“Dr. Rozdolski and Dr. Israel, as well as the other TCDM faculty, emphasize the importance of taking ownership of our studies, as these are the skills that will help us become the professionals we hope to be,” said Generowicz. “Participating in active learning sessions like the Local Anesthesia Competition gives us the ability to make the content our own and thereby practice safe and effective care.”