When the COVID 19 pandemic shut down schools last march, it caused a significant issue for post-secondary institutes. Our school was hit hard with having to make on-the-fly adjustments to how programs were delivered. Our program’s most significant problem was that 80% of our course is hands-on, requiring students to complete assessments on a live patient. Our licensing body mandates the type of examinations necessary for an individual to be deemed safe to practice in a public setting.
Difficulties are passed to the leadership all the while dealing with the changes that are hindering leadership from being able to communicate without interruption. Chesley et al., irritation is a factor within change (p. 189)
Our program went from face-to-face didactic and clinical sessions to synchronous sessions through zoom. One primary concern was that the learner’s education was interrupted as the hands-on experience of laboratory, preclinical, and clinical activities was nonexistent. Our main problem was how the learners could receive their theoretical-practical training without teaching preclinical or clinical activities in a live clinical environment? Due to our unique program requirements with hands-on clinical assessments, we looked to other schools for guidance or suggestions on how to clinically assess students when a live patient environment is not available.
Our research conducted had noted that some dental schools in Europe were planning to modify assessment schedules and extend program dates, particularly regarding clinical hours, rather than reducing the clinical graduation requirements. (Quinn et al., 2020)
We had no idea how long our school would be closed due to the pandemic. We were forced to re-prioritize our assessments and rethink our students, staff, and patients’ safety. Our licensing board had not yet released our infection control guidelines to treat patients during a pandemic, so our hands were tied.
While trying to evaluate our learners, we found that the preclinical e-learning activities and online simulation with our dental manikins Dexter were challenging. Not all learners had access to the tools required to complete the assessments. Our institution invested in two dental simulators before the pandemic; however, they were very costly, and it was not feasible for every learner to purchase one.
Unfortunately, due to our program’s nature and our licensing board, we had to wait until our institute was allowed to open to complete the clinical requirements of our learners. This resulted in delayed graduation for our learners and a delay in writing their national board exam. Until our licensing board or accreditation adjust the criteria required surrounding live patient care. We are currently stuck in a quandary and governed by our guiding principles in our oral health care field. Until such a time changes, we will continue to assess our learners in a live clinical setting. While looking ahead to the future and the positive advancements in technology, I have hope that in the near future our program will benefit from technological advances, and live clinical assessments will be a thing of the past.
Chesley, J., Egan, T., & Jones, H. (2019). Elevating leadership development practices to meet emerging needs. Journal of Leadership Education, 19(4). https://doi.org/10.12806/V19/I4/T3
Gouthro, P. A. (2012). Learning from the Grassroots: Exploring Democratic Adult Learning Opportunities Connected to Grassroots Organizations. New Directions for Adult and Continuing Education, 135, 51–59.
Quinn, B., Field, J., Gorter, R., Akota, I., Manzanares, M. C., Paganelli, C., … Tubert‐Jeannin, S. (2020). COVID‐19: The immediate response of European academic dental institutions and future implications for dental education. European Journal of Dental Education, 24(4), 811–814. https://doi.org/10.1111/eje.12542