Perceptions on the addition of clinical practice to the dental technology curriculum
Mqadi, Nonhlanhla Precious
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The Dental Technology profession in South Africa is currently undergoing a possible role transformation. In the past, Dental Technicians were restricted to laboratory work only and were not permitted to have direct contact with patients. Due to a demand for oral care, and a gap that is perceived to exist in service delivery, Clinical Dental Technology has emerged as a possible new profession in South Africa. The 1997 amendment to the Dental Technicians Act allows Dental Technicians to broaden their scope of practice through further education into the clinical aspects of the profession. South Africa is one of few countries that have an enabling legislation in terms of the recognition of Clinical Dental Technology. However, there is to date no training programme or curriculum for people who would like to practise as Clinical Dental Technicians. The three institutions in South Africa that provide training for Dental Technicians do not provide training to those technicians who would like to pursue a clinical career path. Internationally, Dentists have argued that Dental Technicians have insufficient clinical capabilities. They feel that technicians do not have sufficient knowledge and experience in dealing directly with patients, and consequently have identified a need for further training of Dental Technicians before they are recognised as Clinical Dental Technicians. The aim of this study was to evaluate educational institutions’ readiness in terms of the role transformation of Dental Technicians and to establish perceptions about the introduction of this new profession by Dentists, Dental Technicians and Dental Technology lecturers. The views of these three stakeholders have implications not only in terms of the development of a new curriculum, but were also found to raise serious concerns about the implementation of this profession in South Africa. Data was collected by means of questionnaires and personal interviews with Dentists, Dental Technicians and Dental Technology lecturers in South Africa. The responses were transcribed and then coded according to pertinent themes for interpretation purposes. The data revealed major differences in the perceptions of the proposed profession by the three sectors. This has important implications for the likely success of Clinical Dental Technology, given the need for these sectors to work together as members of the dental team. The data also reveals concerns about the type of training that would need to be incorporated into the curriculum and who would be able to provide such training. By using an overview of curriculum theory, this study also raises concerns that clinical aspects might be infused into the curriculum as simply the acquisition of additional technical skills, rather than as a significant shift in professional identity to incorporate patient care.
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