Table 4

Examples of students’ comments, organized by theme

Theme/SubthemeStatements Regarding Assumptions
Feelings of apprehension
Treating various patient populations• I was frightened at the idea of working with fragile elderly patients with long lists of medications.
• I was apprehensive to work with [patients with special needs] because of a lack of experience providing dental care to mentally and physically handicapped patients and limited personal interactions with such patients.
• I was nervous to do dental treatment on mentally disabled patients because I would probably hurt myself or the patient accidentally if they were moving around quickly and unexpectedly.
• I was apprehensive about pediatric treatment planning, procedures, and behavior management.
• I was worried I would be left alone to handle uncooperative children who were beyond my skills.
• I was really nervous and intimidated about interacting with a patient population with whom I could not directly communicate [due to a language difference].
Lack of experience• I’m worried the children are going to have dental needs that exceed my area of expertise.
Treating multiple patients per day/slow clinician• I am hesitant about being able to treat 6–10 patients a day and do not feel confident at this point that I will be able to accomplish this.
Other• I was nervous that I would not keep up with other students and would disappoint instructors and fail to meet their expectations.
Feelings of anticipated enjoyment and looking forward to experiences
Treating various patient populations• I’ll enjoy working with elderly patients because I typically work well with this population.
• Elderly people I have met in public are very talkative and easy to build a relationship with.
• I was excited to gain experience and feel more comfortable seeing children for my future practice.
• I would like the experience because it would be providing a service for a high-need populations.
• I will enjoy working with the population because they will be appreciative of the service that is provided for them (e.g., relief of pain).
Working with a dental assistant• I am looking forward to working in a semi-private practice atmosphere with multiple dentists and my own assistant.
Patient management challenges
Treating difficult patients• Low-income patients would be difficult to work with and would care less about their dental health as well as overall health.
• Mentally challenged patients and elderly with severe dementia would be difficult to communicate with and would have behavioral challenges.
• I would be doing a lot of operative on people who might not be able to sit back very far, and therefore I would have a sore back at the end of the day because I couldn’t sit properly.
Site details
Outdated facilities and equipment• The facility would not be up-to-date with new technology.
• I would be working in a less-than-ideal clinic set-up (old chairs, bad lighting, stained floors).
Busy clinics• I was expecting a hectic, fast-paced day that left me feeling that I had done sub-optimal care just to keep up with the speed that would be expected from me.
Similar to dental school• It’s still going to be a lot like being at the dental school: lots of checks, instructors watching over our shoulders, and lots of input from instructors.
More independence• I was initially excited about gaining independence and being able to work a bit more on my own.
Self-improvement
Gain knowledge, improve clinical skills, increase speed, improve patient management skills• I expected to improve and expand my surgical skills.
• I would get a lot of experience doing removable work, including learning practical techniques for removable prosthetics.
• I assumed I was going to be working very fast and be able to increase my efficiency as a clinician.
• I am hopeful I will be able to use nitrous oxide and improve my behavior management skills with children.