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Eur J Dent Educ. 2008 May;12(2):89-98. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-0579.2008.00506.x.

Understanding the motivation: a qualitative study of dental students' choice of professional career.

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1
Oral Health Services Research & Dental Public Health, King's College London Dental Institute, London, UK. jenny.gallagher@kcl.ac.uk

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Given the changing nature of the dental workforce, and the need to retain the services of future members, it is important to understand why current dental students perceive that they were motivated to study dentistry. Qualitative research provides the opportunity to explore the underlying issues in addition to informing subsequent quantitative research. The objectives of this research were to investigate final-year dental students' motivation for studying dentistry and how they perceive this has been modified during their undergraduate degree programme.

METHODS:

Purposive sampling of a representative group of 35 final-year dental students at King's College London Dental Institute to participate in audio-taped focus groups. Qualitative data were analysed using Framework Methodology.

RESULTS:

The findings suggest a strong emphasis on having a career, providing 'professional status', 'financial benefits', 'job security, flexibility and independence' and 'good quality of life'. Students reported being attracted by features of the job, supported to a greater or lesser extent by personal experience, family and friends. It appears however that students' initial motivation is being tempered by their experiences during their undergraduate degree programme, in particular, the 'responsibilities of an intensive professional education', their 'mounting student debt' and the perception of 'feeling undervalued'. This perception related to dentistry in general and National Health Service dentistry in particular, being undervalued, by government, patients, the public and members of the dental profession.

CONCLUSIONS:

Students' vision of a 'contained professional career' within health care, providing status and financial benefits, appears to have influenced their choice of dentistry. Pressures relating to student life and policy changes are perceived as impacting on key components of professional life, particularly status in the social and economic order. The implications for educators, professional leaders and policy makers are explored.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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