EXPLORING DENTAL STUDENT ATTITUDES TOWARD DENTIST-PATIENT COMMUNICATION SKILLS LEARNING: A MIXED METHODS APPROACH
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RATIONALE: Dentists’ communication skills (CS) are linked to patient oral health outcomes. Communication skills learning (CSL) in dental education includes the formal and informal experiences that strengthen the CS of dentists. The present study sought to provide detailed accounts of dental student attitudes toward CSL in order to inform optimized CSL components and therefore offer upstream opportunities to promote patient health. METHODS: This mixed methods study employed three phases of data collection. A quantitative questionnaire adapted from the Dental Communication Skills Attitude Scale, along with qualitative survey questions was completed by dental students in one school (n=124). A subsample (n=13) of respondents later participated in qualitative interviews. A principal components analysis and analysis of variance were applied to the questionnaire data. Thematic analysis was conducted for the survey and interview data, respectively. All three datasets were later triangulated. RESULTS: Participants felt positively about their CSL, with differences based on year of study, gender, and ethnic/racial identity reported. Participants reported viewing CS as integral to practicing dentistry, succeeding in business, and having strong patient relationships. Participants had diverse ideas regarding how CSL should be implemented. CONCLUSION: Incorporating student needs and accommodating the competing demands of dental education in design and delivery of CSL activities shows promise for improving the CS of future dentists.