VCU-led study is first to assess well-being of dental educators during pandemic – VCU News
While the COVID-19 pandemic has forced the world to back down for safety reasons in 2020, dental school teachers have not reported a significant decrease in measures of their well-being, according to the results of a study conducted by Carlos S. Smith, DDS, Va. Commonwealth University School of Dentistry.
Recently published in the Journal of Dental Education of the American Dental Education Association, the study, conducted in September and October 2020, was based on the results of a survey of professors at the VCU School of Dentistry, University of Minnesota School of Dentistry, University of Texas School. of Dentistry in Houston and Harvard School of Dental Medicine. The survey assessed several factors related to the well-being of respondents, including personal and professional burnout, resilience and loneliness.
A total of 216 faculty members from the four schools responded to the survey, which also included questions related to joy and stress as well as demographics. While the scores were not significantly worse compared to the results of a pre-pandemic study examining dental burnout at Northeastern American dental schools, rates of burnout and loneliness remained higher for dental faculties than for the general public. The survey compared the number of dental teachers to the public from a public survey completed in April 2020, where the prevalence of loneliness was reported at 23%.
âUnderstanding the well-being of providers is really a crossroads of passions for me. As a clinician and ethicist as well as a practitioner of equity and belonging, I believe it is imperative that we understand why some providers excel despite setbacks and others struggle to thrive after difficult circumstances â said Smith, director of diversity, equity and inclusion and ethics program and associate professor at the VCU School of Dentistry. âDental schools occupy a unique landscape as educational institutions and clinical enterprises. With faculty serving as moral examples for students and residents, understanding their well-being is key to the future development of the workforce.
This study builds on the groundbreaking work of Smith and a VCU team published in January 2020, which was the first measure of resilience of dental students in the United States.
On a scale of one to five, with five indicating extreme burnout and one indicating no burnout, average personal burnout was 2.7 and burnout was 2.8 among respondents. Burnout was highest among full-time professors, professors and those living alone. Both measures decreased with age.
Resilience was also measured on a scale of one to five, with higher scores indicating increased resilience. The mean resilience score was 3.6 and did not differ significantly between groups. Loneliness was measured as the sum of three item responses with a combined scale of nine, with responses totaling six or more being considered lonely. The mean reported loneliness was 4.8; however, people who lived alone had an average loneliness score of 7.05. Almost a third of the dental professors who responded were considered lonely, according to the study’s measures.
âWe wanted to look at loneliness, which is the gap between the social connection you want and what you think you actually have,â Smith said. âWith an ongoing pandemic and a significant degree of loneliness reported by faculty, dental schools should ask themselves what role they can play in closing this gap. “
Respondents were also asked to report on the aspects of their job that gave them the most joy and stress. Full-time professors said administrative responsibilities were the most stressful part of their job, while part-time professors said clinical care was the most stressful. For all respondents, the greatest joy came from teaching.
âInnovation is a clear positive part of the disruption,â Smith said. âWe know dental schools wear many hats, so we wanted to know if there were specific responsibilities that offer greater fulfillment or provide opportunities to overcome challenges. ”
In light of the ongoing pandemic and higher than average burnout and loneliness rates among dental educators compared to the general public, Smith and colleagues recommend that dental schools continue to provide education, support and care. training and incentives designed to reduce burnout and increase faculty resilience. . Additionally, the researchers recommend that future studies take a closer look at factors associated with different levels of well-being among different demographic groups. The authors suggest that faculty recruitment and retention efforts may benefit from intentional institutional commitments to improve faculty well-being.
âCultivating resilience is often seen as a personal task,â Smith said. âHowever, more and more, we are learning and understanding that resilience is as much an organizational value as it is a personal one. Strategic planning, professional development, institutional culture and climate, as well as DCI initiatives, are all interconnected with organizational and personal resilience.
Smith collaborated on this study with Caroline K. Carrico, Ph.D., of the VCU School of Dentistry; Erinne Kennedy, DMD, Harvard School of Dental Medicine; Karin Quick, DDS, Ph.D., University of Minnesota School of Dentistry; and Sophia Saeed, DMD, of the University of Connecticut School of Dentistry.
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