Dental school academic environments, whether the overall environment or the smaller environments of the classroom, lab, clinic, or community, are critical to student learning and professional development. The aims of this study were to assess dental students' experiences in the overall academic environment related to discrimination, destructive communication, belittlement, and isolation and to explore the relationships between students' emotional health and such experiences. Dental students in all four years at five U.S. dental schools were invited to participate in an electronic survey in April 2017. A total of 358 students responded for a 19.4% response rate. These students reported a total of five cases of discrimination that had been formally reported to their schools. Among these respondents, 24% had experienced destructive communication, 33% had experienced belittlement, and 33% reported feeling a sense of isolation. Non-males and students with disabilities were more likely to experience belittlement and isolation. Both destructive communication and feeling belittled increased with program year (relative to year 1)-spiking in year 3. Destructive communication and isolation were associated with behavior changes such as weight change, increased alcohol or over-The-counter medication use, and consultation with a health professional. To improve overall academic environments, dental educators should create learning environments to foster development of professional relationships, and schools should continue to provide student support services. Identifying and acknowledging shared issues across dental education might stimulate a national discussion that could lead to concerted approaches to address these issues. Identifying the proportions of students with feelings of isolation or loneliness along with experiences of belittlement and destructive communication could provide schools with a useful picture of their academic environment.
Bibliographical notePublisher Copyright:
© 2018 Blackwell Publishing Ltd. All rights reserved.
- Academic environment
- Dental education
- Dental students
- Interpersonal relations