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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

The emerging dental workforce: why dentistry? A quantitative study of final year dental students' views on their professional career

Jennifer E Gallagher1*, Resmi Patel1, Nora Donaldson1 and Nairn HF Wilson2

Author Affiliations

1 King's College London Dental Institute At Guy's, King's College and St Thomas' Hospitals, Department of Oral Health Services Research & Dental Public Health, Oral Health Workforce & Education Research Group, London, UK

2 King's College London Dental Institute At Guy's, King's College and St Thomas' Hospitals, Office of the Dean and Head of School, Oral Health Workforce & Education Research Group, London, UK

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BMC Oral Health 2007, 7:7  doi:10.1186/1472-6831-7-7

Published: 15 June 2007

Abstract

Background

Dental graduates are joining a profession experiencing changes in systems of care, funding and skill mix. Research into the motivation and expectations of the emerging workforce is vital to inform professional and policy decisions. The objective of this research was to investigate final year dental students' perceived motivation for their choice of career in relation to sex, ethnicity and mode of entry.

Methods

Self-administered questionnaire survey of all final year dental students at King's College London. Data were entered into SPSS; statistical analysis included Chi Squared tests for linear association, multiple regression, factor analysis and logistic regression.

Results

A response of 90% (n = 126) was achieved. The majority were aged 23 years (59%), female (58%) and Asian (70%). One in 10 were mature students. Eighty per cent identified 11 or more 'important' or 'very important' influences, the most common of which were related to features of the job: 'regular working hours' (91%), 'degree leading to recognised job' (90%) and 'job security' (90%). There were significant differences in important influences by sex (males > females: 'able to run own business'; females > males: 'a desire to work with people'), ethnic group (Asians > white: 'wish to provide public service', 'influence of friends', 'desire to work in healthcare', having 'tried an alternative career/course' and 'work experience') and mode of entry (mature > early entry: 'a desire to work with people'). Multivariate analysis suggested 61% of the variation in influences is explained by five factors: the 'professional job' (31%), 'healthcare-people' (11%), 'academic-scientific' (8%), 'careers-advising' (6%), and 'family/friends' (6%). The single major influence on choice of career was a 'desire to work with people'; Indian students were twice as likely to report this as white or other ethnic groups.

Conclusion

Final year dental students report a wide range of important influences on their choice of dentistry, with variation by sex, ethnicity and mode of entry in relation to individual influences. Features of the 'professional job', followed by 'healthcare and people' were the most important underlying factors influencing choice of career.