With the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic in Canada and the curtailment of clinical and face-to-face university instruction in British Columbia on March 16, 2020, the opportunity arose to explore how third- and fourth-year undergraduate dental students critically considered the impact of the pandemic on education and the practice of dental geriatrics.
All third- and fourth-year undergraduate dental students within a dental geriatric module were asked to provide a written guided reflection on the question: “In your opinion, what factors make outbreaks (or pandemics) like COVID-19 relevant to the practice of dental geriatrics?” Reflections were gathered from March 12 to May 8, 2020. Thematic analysis was conducted to identify and interpret patterns of meaning within the reflections by means of an interactive coding process.
A total of 115 reflections, between 291 and 710 words each, were received from 56 third-year (62.5% male) and 59 fourth-year (42.6% male) students. Five main themes emerged: experiencing uncertainties, frailty as a moderator, constraints in accessing care, preparedness protocol, and redefining care. The frequency in which the same codes, categories, and themes were assigned varied from 16 to 140 times.
Students’ reflections highlighted the effects of the pandemic, not only on their education but also on frail older adults themselves and the profession of dentistry in general. Further studies are warranted to explore how this curtailment might impact educators’ approaches to geriatric education, as well as the way graduating students will set up their practices and approach geriatric care in the future.
© 2020 American Dental Education Association.