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ADEE’s mixed-methods study of ‘Professionalism’ in dentistry and healthcare published by the UK’s General Dental Council – the regulatory body for all UK dental professionals.

ADEE’s mixed-methods study of ‘Professionalism’ in dentistry and healthcare published by the UK’s General Dental Council – the regulatory body for all UK dental professionals.

Findings of the Association of Dental Education Europe’s (ADEE’s) mixed-methods research study of ‘professionalism’ in dentistry and healthcare were published by the General Dental Council (GDC) on 6 August 2020 in support of its promoting professionalism work programme. The report provides the results of a comprehensive review of professionalism in dentistry and healthcare in the UK.

Professionalism: A mixed-method’s research study was conducted by ADEE from July 2019 to March 2020. Researchers completed:

  • A rapid evidence assessment (REA) of over 1,000 publications on ‘professionalism’, from the UK and internationally, with significant detail provided by 98 relevant publications.
  • Interviews with research topic experts.
  • Focus groups with dental professionals and members of the public.
  • Analysis of over 1,000 survey responses, part of a modified Delphi process.

In addition, during the review, researcher contributed to a panel debate on professionalism at the GDC’s Moving Upstream conference in January 2020.

Researchers observed the following key findings on professionalism in dentistry.

  1. When considering the public’s expectations, high on the priority list were:
  • professionals’ interactions with their patients
  • the importance of good communication
  • joint decision making, and
  • good clinical skills and a safe environment.
  1. The public’s attitude to perceived lapses was that they did not necessarily imply that an individual was unprofessional. What was important, was for professionals to learn from their mistakes, many of which tended to occur in challenging situations.
  2. Professionalism was multifaceted, and the context in which behaviour was considered unprofessional, was an important factor. There were a variety of factors that could influence the professionalism of a dental professional:
  • cultural or religious factors
  • environment and work setting
  • the observer or individual the action is directed towards and their perception, and
  • whether the scenario was a one-off event or a patterned behaviour.
  1. There were variations between the perceptions about professionalism of dental professionals and members of the public. In some respects, members of the public were more pragmatic in their views, compared with a more draconian view of the dental professionals.
  2. Whilst there was little evidence to suggest the best way to teach or learn about professionalism, it was accepted that aligning theory with practice and experiencing real life scenarios was pivotal. This could include a range of approaches to support learning including:
  • role modelling
  • mentoring
  • hidden curriculum
  • reflective practice, and
  • effective communication. 

The GDC, commissioners of the study, will be using these findings, and further workshop events with patients and dental professionals, to come to a shared understanding of the principles of professionalism in dentistry today. This work will support dental professionals to succeed in meeting the expectations of patients and the provision of quality oral healthcare.

On publication of the study, Professor Jonathan Cowpe, ADEE and project lead, said:

The data we collected, in this review, provided a wealth of evidence not least through the online survey, which received 10 times the number of responses that we were expecting. The study highlighted the importance, to patients, of a safe care environment and expectations of good clinical skills, communication, teamwork and training. The key areas of professionalism related to patient experience of interactions with dental professionals and their expected service experience as well as the personal and professional divide that is relevant to all healthcare professions. One of the major influences on professionalism, highlighted, was the importance of the context in which professional behaviour is interpreted.

Please visit the GDC website for a copy of the full report, with executive summary, of Professionalism: A mixed-methods research study, ADEE, 2020.

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© ADEE 2019

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