Building understanding: A year in review of our student and new registrant engagement programme

19 September, 2023 by Laura Bamford

In August, we commenced our 2023 – 2024 student and new registrant engagement programme, starting with those undertaking foundation and vocational training.

This engagement programme, which is now in its fifth year, is where we present to all first and fifth year BSc/BDS students, foundation/vocational dentists, and in recent years, the wider dental team. Last year we ran 42 sessions, engaging with around 3,000 people. These sessions are designed to increase awareness and understanding of the GDC and explain the importance of professionalism in a regulated profession. 

But it also goes further than this. As the future workforce, it is important that we concentrate our efforts and resources to support them.  Our perceptions research from a few years ago told us that students were the group that had the most misconceptions about the GDC, and the lowest understanding of our remit. Therefore, we felt it was important to engage with this group as early as possible in their careers to help them understand the role of their regulator and how we can support them throughout their career.

Shifting perceptions

Having led on the programme over the past year, I was pleased to see a shift in perceptions around what people thought about the GDC and a stronger understanding of our role and remit.

Some common misconceptions, including that GDC ‘sets clinical standards’ and ‘represents the interests of dental professionals’, fell in some cases from 38% (two years prior) to 2%, giving us confidence that our work of supporting those in the early part of their careers is worth undertaking.

Feedback has been overwhelmingly positive

It is good to see from feedback that our sessions are making a difference and are welcomed by students, dental schools and universities alike. Almost 98% said that they found the session useful. We’ve received some excellent feedback too – a few comments for which are below.

I thoroughly enjoyed this session, especially the videos of the patients' opinions on the questions asked.”

The presentation was executed wonderfully and was very informative.”

I found this session very engaging which I think is so important for dental students in the early stages. The quality of the presentation reflects the GDC well and makes me feel very proud to be a part of it!

Building relationships and beyond

Building relationships with early careerists has led to increased collaborations between us and the dental schools that we deliver these sessions to. This has improved communication with the schools and universities and helped create mutual support in achieving our common goals, such as improving dental education and patient care.

Now that we have established a sustainable engagement programme with student dentists, which we will continue to refine further year on year, we also want to concentrate efforts on engaging more meaningfully and extend the programme to students across the entire dental professions. This is a key area of the 2023 – 2024 programme, to ensure that all trainee members of the dental team have the same opportunity to engage with us. 

We are also currently undertaking a new perceptions study, to better understand how knowledge and awareness levels of us among early career professionals have changed, and this will help inform our activity for future years. We plan to publish the results of this study early next year. 

The student and new registrant programme stands as testament to its commitment in fostering a more connected, informed and confident dental community. By continuing to change perceptions around our role and remit, we have not only strengthened our relationship with students but also played a role in shaping the future of dentistry. As we continue to engage with this group, I really hope that the dental profession as a whole and patients will undoubtedly benefit from this collaborative effort.

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