As the next generation of dental professionals, students and trainees represent a key stakeholder group for the GDC to engage with. It is important that we build positive relationships early on with the 5,400 new dental students and trainees who take up places to train to become members of the wider dental team each year. This is a key focus for us and is something that we have developed a different approach towards for this academic year.
Understanding our starting point
Our 2020 perceptions research found that students had the most positive perceptions of the GDC (50%) and were more likely to associate positive words to the GDC, such as ‘helpful’ (39%) and ‘supportive’ (42%). However, students were also more likely to have misconceptions about the GDC’s remit, with most common misconceptions including that the GDC ‘sets clinical standards’ (50%) and ‘represents the interests of dental professionals’ (32%).
Using the research to develop our approach
These findings made it clear that we needed to update and refine our approach to student and new registrant engagement. For the last three years, we have delivered presentations to first year BDS students and foundation/vocational dentists. Whilst we will continue to do this, we have used the learnings from these along with the insight from the perceptions research, to develop the content of our presentation, expand the range of communication activities that we deliver and broaden our reach to target all trainees for all roles within the dental team.
Between January and April this year, we will be meeting students and trainees from every dental profession to explain our remit, our focus on upstream and preventative regulatory activities and the importance of professionalism to both patients and dental professionals. It will be an opportunity to hear from students in the early stages of their dentistry careers, and for us to recognise the contribution they will be making by joining the professions.
We have also created a dedicated student and trainee information hub, which we will be building on month by month, as we learn what content is most relevant to students. We will also be utilising social media to communicate our messages and feeding content into education provider channels already used by students.
Getting the message right
It is key that we tackle the misconceptions about our remit and explain the positive benefits of working in a regulated profession. This will help students to understand the interaction between professionals and their regulator, and why this is important to patient safety and public confidence. We also want to celebrate the students’ decision to join the dental team and highlight why dentistry is such an interesting and rewarding profession, where you can make a real difference to the quality of life of patients.
When we meet with students and trainees, the interactive sessions are tailored to the professional group that we are presenting to. In each session, we want to understand the attendees’ motivations for joining dentistry and their understanding of the GDC. We can then build on this to ensure that, by the end of the presentation, they have a better understanding of the role of the GDC. This will be strengthened by the wider communication activities we have planned.
Making a positive impact
The future dental team will join registered dental professionals to make a real difference to the lives of patients. As dentistry continues to evolve and innovate during their career, this next generation of dental professionals will lead the developments that will continue to drive dentistry forward.