Despite advances in evidence-based dental school educational programmes, the charge is sometimes made that dental students are 'no longer as good as they used to be'. Recent modifications have meant that dental education is now a 'life-long experience', of which dental school is the initial, albeit very important, component. Contemporary dental students will normally enter dental foundation (DF) training on completion of dental school. As such there may be value in including DF trainers in dental school teaching programmes. The aim of this paper is to report the experiences, feedback and opinions of these DF trainers following their first-hand experience of the community-based clinical teaching programme at Cardiff, and assess if their perspectives of contemporary dental student education changed following this.
DF trainers were invited to attend the community-based clinical teaching programme at Cardiff on an observer basis. Twenty-four DF trainers attended, following which evaluation questionnaires were completed. Information sought included opinions and attitudes to the teaching programme, the physical environment in which the teaching programme took place, knowledge and attitudes towards community-based clinical teaching and modifications that DF trainers would make to the teaching programme to further improve the knowledge, skills and attributes of dental school graduates for DF training.
Responses were received from 20 DF trainers (response rate = 83%). All 20 respondents felt that the teaching provided within the community-based clinical teaching programme was appropriate, with one respondent noting that it was like 'a day in the life of a dental practice', 'where anything could present'. Sixteen respondents were satisfied with the scope and content of the community-based clinical teaching programme, with a small number recommending inclusion of teaching in relation to inlays/onlays (n = 2), simple orthodontics (n = 1) and splinting (n = 1). Eighteen respondents reported that they felt students were adequately prepared for entry into DF training. All 20 respondents reported that their visit to the community-based clinical teaching programme had improved their perception of contemporary dental school education with one respondent noting: 'I am certainly more confident about students graduating' and another noting: 'It has reassured me that there are final year dental students that appear very professional and competent'.
This investigation has demonstrated there is much to be gained by inclusion of DF trainers in undergraduate dental student community-based clinical teaching programmes. In an era where tensions exist between dental school teaching and subsequent DF training and independent practice, inclusion of DF trainers can exert positive pressures on dental school programmes and on DF training to ensure that young and newly graduating dentists are best prepared to meet the needs of their patients.