The dental vocational training experience : a transition from novice dentist to competent practitioner

Cabot, Lyndon B. (2004). The dental vocational training experience : a transition from novice dentist to competent practitioner. EdD thesis The Open University.



Immediate postgraduate dental training is compulsory. To practise within the General Dental Services (GDS) the newly qualified must undertake a twelve-month period of vocational training (VT) as a Vocational Dental Practitioner (VDP) in an appropriate training practice under the immediate supervision of a vocational trainer. VT advisors manage schemes of 12 practices and arrange 30 VDP Study Days. This is a crucial period of transition for the new graduate. There is little evidence to support Seward's claim (2000) that VT has been the profession's success story, particularly in terms of patient care or educational worth.

Taking an interpretive approach the aim of this study was to provide an insight into the educational value of VT and provide answers to the following:
- How is a typical trainer/VDP partnership manifest?
- What if the partnership is not successful? Are there unforeseen consequences of VT?
- Is the selection process successful?
- What is the influence of trainer expertise?

The participants were two successive cohorts of 13 and 22 GKT Dental Institute graduates and their trainers. I established success criteria for defined aspects of VT; evidence was then sought to determine if the criteria had been met. I interviewed the VDPs and trainers at six months and again at year-end.
An account of the most likely or typical experience and an example of failure to successfully implement VT form the core of this thesis.

Asian women appeared to have difficulty securing a VT place, but they wanted to remain in the South East where competition for VT places is fierce.

VT is a success story. Stated aims were achieved; with very few exceptions VT produced practitioners capable of independent practice. Novice dentists became competent practitioners.

Progression in VT is a complex issue. As an expansion of the models of Eraut (1994) and Dreyfus and Dreyfus (1986), VT advances a relational model of progression. Trainers have developed a well-grounded notion of VDP progression, but they are themselves, in parallel, undergoing their own skills progression. One cannot be considered without the other.

This study suggests VT could be better. The Professional Development Portfolio was not valued despite its potential. Training expertise seeped away from VT and was lost forever. Rested expert trainers could/want to act as mentors for less expert colleagues. That said VT as a `community of practice' (Lave and Wenger, 1991) provided a supportive and effective environment for VDPs and trainers to develop professional practice.

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