Teaching, Learning and Patient Care During Covid-19
Helping Students Safely Complete Assessments
During the last week of April, a total of 55 students entered the College of Dentistry's pre-clinic lab to complete their typodont-only endodontic competency assessment. Completing assessments certainly isn't an unusual occurrence—during a normal academic year, that is. But with students across the country learning online during the COVID-19 pandemic, Ohio State's fourth-year dental students had the distinction of becoming the first from the Big 10 dental schools to complete in-person assessments.
When Ohio State suspended on-campus classes beginning March 9, many fourth-year dental students had not yet completed their required assessments. College of Dentistry faculty administered some competency exams virtually, but other assessments necessitated a return to Postle Hall. Dean Patrick Lloyd approached university officials in April to gain permission to conduct one of those exams—an endodontic competency assessment—on campus so students could move toward graduation.
“The Endodontics Division was incredibly helpful in our return to the college. They were willing to work with us to find reasonable alternatives to show clinical competency and were very efficient in implementing those steps. Our class is so grateful to [the faculty] for their hard work in this difficult time.” — Chase Culbertson ’20, DDS
Dean Lloyd provided the university with detailed protocols that would be implemented to ensure the assessment could proceed safely. Utilizing standards established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Ohio State Dental Board, and the American Dental Association, the protocols addressed how and where students would don and doff their personal protective equipment (PPE) before entering and leaving the lab and how social distancing would be maintained. To ensure the assessments proceeded safely, students were scheduled in groups of no more than 23 at a time and all participating students, staff, and faculty were required to complete COVID-19 temperature, symptom, and exposure checks before entering Postle Hall.
"Our Division of Endodontics was so pleased to be able to help 26 students complete their last requirement needed to graduate," said Sara Fowler, DMD, MS, Assistant Professor, who worked closely with her colleagues in endodontics to plan the assessment. "An additional 29 students were also able to complete competencies and non-patient experiences that moved them closer to graduation."
Many of the students expressed their gratitude to the college's faculty and staff who helped them achieve their goals during their return to Postle Hall. Class of 2020 dental student Chase Culbertson was among the participants finalizing his requirements for graduation. "The Endodontics Division was incredibly helpful in our return to the college. They were willing to work with us to find reasonable alternatives to show clinical competency and were very efficient in implementing those steps. Our class is so grateful to [the faculty] for their hard work in this difficult time."
After the success of the exams, the college requested and was granted permission from the university to complete additional non-patient assessments and, shortly thereafter, a limited return to the dental clinic so the members of the Class of 2020 could finish their requirements and continue to the next stage of their dental journey.
Learning from the Pandemic
There have been many lessons learned during the COVID-19 pandemic, and that is especially true for healthcare providers and researchers who are still seeking answers to help patients avoid or recover from the virus. With the pandemic shedding additional light on healthcare disparities among vulnerable populations, The Ohio State University College of Dentistry created a timely experience for senior dental hygiene and dental students to learn more about their patients' needs. While College of Dentistry students were learning virtually from home, the college launched a COVID-19 clinical experience to enhance students' social awareness. "
The COVID-19 virus has shed a harsh light on disparities in access to care," Patrick Lloyd, dean of the College of Dentistry, said. "Educating our students about these disparities has always been a part of our curriculum through our OHIO Project. We expanded that program to include this experience so our students can leave our college with a greater understanding of career choices and with an enhanced social awareness."
Led by Canise Bean, DMD, MPH, Professor-Clinical, Division of Restorative and Prosthetic Dentistry, and director of the college's OHIO Project, the three-week clinical experience started with students meeting in teams with two faculty facilitators. During those discussions, the students identified the many impacts the pandemic has had on vulnerable Ohioans and on the dental profession. Students prepared a short, virtual presentation on one of the topics that emerged from their discussions and presented their findings to their peers. The result was a learning and growing opportunity for students that will serve them in their practices for potentially the rest of their careers. "This clinical experience provided a wealth of learning for our students during a time when they couldn't physically be in the clinic," Dr. Bean said. "The experience couldn't have happened without the great mix of enthusiastic and able faculty who worked closely with the students to lead them through the program." Following the presentations, Class of '20 participants Dana Akel and Andrea Tsatalis—who created a video about access-to-care issues resulting from the pandemic—were voted by their peers as having the "best of the best" presentation. Their winning video earned them each a $500 scholarship.