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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

The emerging dental workforce: long-term career expectations and influences. A quantitative study of final year dental students' views on their long-term career from one London Dental School

Jennifer E Gallagher1*, Resmi Patel2 and Nairn HF Wilson3

Author Affiliations

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

2 Formerly Oral Health Services Research & Dental Public Health, King's College London Dental Institute, King's College London Dental Institute At Guy's, King's College and St Thomas' Hospitals, London, UK

3 Office of the Dean and Head of School, King's College London Dental Institute At Guy's, King's College and St Thomas' Hospitals, London, UK

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BMC Oral Health 2009, 9:35  doi:10.1186/1472-6831-9-35

Published: 23 December 2009

Abstract

Background

Research into the motivation and expectations of the emerging workforce and their short-term expectations has already been reported with a view to informing professional and policy decisions. The objective of this component of the research programme was to examine the long-term goals and perceived influences on final year dental students' professional careers.

Methods

Univariate analysis of a self completed questionnaire survey of all final year dental students from King's College London, comprising questions on demography, long-term career goals and influences, proposed commitment to dentistry, commitment to healthcare systems and the influences thereon. Statistical analysis included Chi Squared tests for linear association.

Results

Ninety per cent of students responded to this survey (n = 126), the majority of whom were aged 23 years (59%), female (58%) and Asian (70%). Long-term career goals were fairly evenly split between 'dentist with a special interest' (27%), 'primary dental care practitioner' (26%) and 'specialist' (25%), with 19% not certain. Only 60% of total respondents anticipated working full-time in the long-term (79% males cf 52% females; p = 0.00). The vast majority of respondents (≥80%) identified 'work-life balance', 'financial stability' and 'professional development' as 'important' or 'very important' influences on the number of future sessions. Females were significantly more likely to rate childcare commitments as an important influence on their future working capacity compared with males (p = 0.00). A wide range of factors were considered important or very important in making the NHS attractive, led by support for professional development (88%) and feeling valued by patients (88%), as well as funding, time with patients, rewards for prevention and practical issues such as dental materials and premises. Females were significantly more likely than males to be attracted to work within the NHS by 'childcare support' (p = 0.02), 'retraining facilities after career break' (p = 0.01), 'assistance with student debt' (p = 0.01) and 'incentives to work in deprived areas'.

Conclusion

Long-term career plans of new graduates from this London Dental School commonly embrace opportunities for professional development as well as personal issues such as work/life balance and financial income. Significant differences were identified between male and females long-term plans and influences. The implications of these findings are discussed.