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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

The graduate entry generation: a qualitative study exploring the factors influencing the career expectations and aspirations of a graduating cohort of graduate entry dental students in one London institution

Paul Newton12, Lyndon Cabot3, Nairn HF Wilson4 and Jennifer E Gallagher1*

Author Affiliations

1 King's College London Dental Institute at Guy's, King's College and St Thomas's Hospitals Oral Health Services Research & Dental Public Health Caldecot Road Denmark Hill London SE5 9RW UK

2 University of Greenwich Centre for Nursing and Healthcare Research Southwood Site Avery Hill Campus Eltham London SE9 2UG UK

3 King's College London Dental Institute at Guy's, King's College and St Thomas's Hospitals Restorative Dentistry Floor 25, Tower Wing Guy's Hospital London SE1 9RT UK

4 King's College London Dental Institute at Guy's, King's College and St Thomas's Hospitals Office of the Dean and Head of Dental Institute Floor 18, Tower Wing Guy's Hospital London SE1 9RT UK

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BMC Oral Health 2011, 11:25  doi:10.1186/1472-6831-11-25

Published: 24 September 2011

Abstract

Background

Dentistry in the UK has a number of new graduate-entry programmes. The aim of the study was to explore the motivation, career expectations and experiences of final year students who chose to pursue a dental career through the graduate entry programme route in one institution; and to explore if, and how, their intended career expectations and aspirations were informed by this choice.

Method

In-depth interviews of 14 graduate entry students in their final year of study. Data were transcribed verbatim and analysed using framework analysis.

Results

There were three categories of factors influencing students' choice to study dentistry through graduate entry: 'push', 'pull' and 'mediating'. Mediating factors related to students' personal concerns and circumstances, whereas push and pull factors related to features of their previous and future careers and wider social factors. Routes to Graduate Entry study comprised: 'early career changers', 'established career changers' and those pursuing 'routes to specialisation'. These routes also influenced the students' practice of dentistry, as students integrated skills in their dental studies, and encountered new challenges.

Factors which students believed would influence their future careers included: vocational training; opportunities for specialisation or developing special interests and policy-related issues, together with wider professional and social concerns.

The graduate entry programme was considered 'hard work' but a quick route to a professional career which had much to offer. Students' felt more could have been made of their pre-dental studies and/or experience during the programme. Factors perceived as influencing students' future contribution to dentistry included personal and social influences. Overall there was strong support for the values of the NHS and 'giving back' to the system in their future career.

Conclusion

Graduate entry students appear to be motivated to enter dentistry by a range of factors which suit their preferences and circumstances. They generally embrace the programme enthusiastically and seek to serve within healthcare, largely in the public sector. These students, who carry wider responsibilities, bring knowledge, skills and experience to dentistry which could be harnessed further during the programme. The findings suggest that graduate entry students, facilitated by varied career options, will contribute to an engaged workforce.

Keywords:
dental; graduate; graduate-entry; career; motivation; workforce