COVID-19 and dental education: will dental schools admit new students in 2021? : Coronavirus microsite (COVID-19)
LEIPZIG, Germany: Since the COVID-19 pandemic severely restricted access to clinical practice, students around the world have been affected by the pandemic’s profound impact on dental education. To make the most of the current situation, many schools have implemented video and virtual platforms to familiarize students with standard clinical procedures. However, the knowledge gained through online learning is limited and some students are now encouraged to repeat the 2020-2021 academic year in order to undergo the necessary clinical training. To that end, some dental schools have announced that they will not be accepting new students in 2021.
Due to the high risk of the virus spreading through aerosol transmission in clinical practice, dentistry has been severely affected by the pandemic. This manifested in a lack of in-person training for dental students, which is crucial for the success of their studies. Students were also overwhelmed by various fears and concerns caused by factors such as the need to adapt to updated infection control protocols and the need to academic challenges.
The seriousness of this situation is clearly evident in Scotland. As final year dental students were unable to graduate due to a lack of practical clinical experience, Universities Scotland, the representative body of Scotland’s 19 higher education institutions, has announced that dental schools will not accept new students in September 2021. Mairi Gougeon, The Scottish Minister for Public Health has reportedly said the decision was difficult but necessary.
‘The quality and caliber of dental treatment in Scotland is exceptional and must be protected by taking appropriate educational steps to ensure that future dental professionals have reached the level of clinical competence of the General Dental Council and can enter the labor market with confidence ”it is noted.
To avoid crippling student debt, the Scottish government will offer financial support to those who have been asked to repeat their final year. According to Gougeon, the students concerned will be eligible for a scholarship equal to the amount of their student loan.
Dental schools in Europe have yet to make the decision
Discussing the situation in Europe, a spokesperson for the European Dental Students Association (EDSA) told DTI: “We know that many students are particularly worried about their inexperience and the impact that this will have on their future studies and employment prospects. . Every student has the right to build a successful career and receive dental education that prepares them to provide safe and effective oral health care to the people they serve. If a student has acquired insufficient clinical experience to provide this, a limited extension of their course duration may be appropriate, depending on the local context. “
According to some sources, several universities in Malta and Greece have already chosen to extend their terms. Other countries are considering taking the same step but have not yet made the final decision.
Speaking of possible course length extensions, the association noted that extensions given to students should be proportional to the amount of clinical time missed. However, EDSA noted that dental schools should carefully consider all available options to safely increase the supply of clinical education and avoid extensions where possible, as these can result in a financial burden. The spokesperson added: “Students must be protected from the financial impact of prolonging their studies. They shouldn’t pay extra fees, and schools and governments should seek to provide financial support for the cost of living, especially for those who might have difficulty with an extension.
Dental schools in the United States still accept students
Although the COVID-19 pandemic has severely disrupted dental education in Scotland, the situation is not the same in some other parts of the world. For example, for dental schools in the United States, it’s business as usual. Dr. Karen P. West, President and CEO of the American Dental Education Association, told DTI: “Dental education continues to advance in the United States and all existing dental schools across the country continue to accept. new students this year. In fact, applications for schools are booming. “
Students across the country quickly adapted to changes in teaching and learning and embraced the shift to virtual classrooms, with all of its possibilities. “Although the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted learning last year, schools have adapted and developed innovative educational environments in which to teach and learn. In accordance with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines for patient care in the COVID-19 environment, students are providing clinical care and skill assessments are continuing, ”she noted.
“Students are not invited to repeat the 2020-2021 academic year on the sole basis of COVID-19. To their credit, faculty and students quickly adapted to the new environment, embracing virtual learning options that allowed dental education to develop and flourish in new and revolutionary ways, ”concluded West .