Journey towards a dental career: the career decision-making journey and perceived obstacles to studying dentistry identified by London's secondary school pupils and teachers

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Abstract

Objective To explore the career decision-making journey towards dentistry and identify possible challenges and supports in this process as perceived by academically able, science-minded, London school pupils and their careers teachers. Methods A mixed-methods study was conducted using a purposive sample of London schools. Focus groups (n = 13) with 91 pupils aged 14-18 years and a survey of career teachers (n = 12) were conducted at a range of school-types. A topic guide, informed by the literature and previous research, guided discussions. Ethical approval was obtained from King's College London Research Ethics Committee (BDM/10/11-17 and 14/15-40). School, teacher, parental and pupil written informed consent were obtained. Data were transcribed and analysed thematically using framework methodology. Results Four distinct phases of the career decision-making journey were identified: 1) initiation of aspiration, with wider influences promoting medicine as a primary aspirational career option; 2) exposure to dentistry as a career, leading to recognition of dentistry as an alternative; 3) exploration of the career; and 4) the application process. Dentistry received little early consideration in this process. Greater representation of dental professionals within the school, access to work experience, and support in the student application process were identified as possible supports. Conclusions The findings suggest a four-phase journey towards a dental career, which may be enhanced by engagement of dental professionals at each stage. This may be particularly helpful in widening participation from under-represented groups.

Original languageEnglish
JournalBritish Dental Journal
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 21 Aug 2023

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