A novel, integrated curriculum for dental hygiene-therapists and dentists
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INTRODUCTION: In certain communities patients may struggle to find access to adequate dental treatment. One proposed strategy to help meet population need is to train more dental hygiene-therapists. However, established attitudes and hierarchies, along with a lack of clear understanding of different roles within some general practice environments has led to underutilised shared-care approaches. Integrating dentists and dental hygiene-therapists in undergraduate education may be an effective approach to promote inter-professional education, dispel inappropriate biases and hierarchies, and nurture team working from an early career stage. As such, we have developed a novel BSc Dental Therapy and Hygiene (BDHT) curriculum, which is integrated with the Bachelor of Dental Surgery (BDS) programme. AIMS: The aim of this paper is to describe how two separate BDHT and BDS undergraduate programmes have been uniquely integrated, and to share areas of best practice. DESIGN: The BDHT curriculum was developed based on our established BDS programme introduced in 2013 and is novel in two respects: BDHT students complete their academic and clinical training jointly with BDS students, and are assessed and trained to the same standards; and our patient-centred, primary care clinical training model is designed to prepare BDHT graduates to work under direct access. RESULTS: Key success indicators of the integrated BDHT-BDS programmes are: award of GDC sufficiency; 100% BDHT graduate employment; and 100% BDHT final year pass rate. CONCLUSION: Inter-professional education is an established pedagogic approach to inhibit the formation of hierarchy and barriers that impede collaborative care. Our BDHT programme is the first of its kind to embed inter-professional education through the entirety of both the BDHT and BDS course structures and be entirely integrated. Further studies are required to provide quantitative and qualitative data to validate the success of our new integrated training programme. This paper presents our curriculum journey, from conception, to design, implementation and review. It describes our vision and its relevance for the future of inter-professional dental education.
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