Clinical Humanities for Dental Undergraduates
King’s Faculty of Dentistry, Oral & Craniofacial Sciences is pioneering interdisciplinary curriculum innovations that aim to enhance the learning experience and build students’ confidence in caring for patients.
A pilot six-week extra-curricular programme, Clinical Humanities for Dental Undergraduates, drew upon the university’s cultural connections across London. Through the lens of the Humanities the programme aimed to help third-year students become more aware of the ambiguities of clinical practice and improve their observation, decision-making and communication skills.
The role-playing helped to show us where little things such as how you rest your hands, which may be very subtle, can change how the patient may interact with you.
The Clinical Humanities for Dental Undergraduates pilot took place after students’ clinics. Students visited the Courtauld to hone their observation skills, explored ambiguity through film and ceramics and were given a historical perspective of the patient-clinician relationship at the Old Operating Theatre Museum on St Thomas Street.
I loved the ceramics session and found it really interesting and useful. I had never thought of using arts and humanities as part of Dentistry before but now I want to integrate this as part of my learning experience.
Further sessions included working with actors to improve non-verbal communication skills and with a screenwriter to consider complex decision making.
One student commented, ‘I had never thought of using arts and humanities as part of dentistry before, but now I want to integrate this as part of my learning experience.’
The Clinical Humanities programme has expanded across King’s and further afield. King’s medical students are undertaking a clinical humanities project during their second year GP placements and Harvard University is an early adopter. All first year dental students at King’s now attend sessions at the Old Operating Theatre Museum entitled Caring for Patients, Dentistry in our Context.
Dr Flora Smyth Zahra, the academic lead, said:
This initiative is a first within dental schools, and the developing Clinical Humanities approach has expanded across King’s and further afield. Considering professional learning from this interdisciplinary perspective improves students’ critical thinking, increases their confidence in decision-making in clinical settings, strengthens their coping skills and enables them to deliver better patient care.’
The programme supports service learning opportunities, with King’s dental students working in local communities with East London Textile Arts to improve gum health among adults with learning disabilities. Students will also shadow Pulse Arts musicians in a new pilot exploring clinical communication skills.
[The Actor] had some really useful pointers on how to be professional, still approachable when with patients and also the importance of being able to separate your different ‘personas’ for example being ‘professional’ at work and then going home and relaxing, leaving the stresses of the day behind.
Academic lead Dr Flora Smyth Zahra, Faculty of Dentistry, Oral & Craniofacial Sciences; Professor Roger Kneebone, Imperial College London; Prue Cooper, The Art Workers Guild; Old Operating Theatre Museum, Courtauld Institute, Wellcome Collection, Drew Caiden, Sheridan Humphries, Tamsin van Essen, Ross Lindgren