Cambodia the first experience: How were oral health therapy students influenced by an overseas placement?

Lauren Church, Kay Franks, Janet Wallace

A new international outreach placement was developed by the University of Newcastle Australia, for their Bachelor of Oral Health Therapy program. It was introduced to provide final year students with a ‘real world’ experience of treating underserved populations, specifically paediatric patients in Cambodia. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the impact the placement had on the development of the students’ clinical, professional and personal skills.

Convenience sampling utilised participating students. A tutor to student ratio of 1:6 produced a sample size of n=12. Partnered with grounded theory a mixed method approach was used for pre- and post-placement questionnaires consisting of Likert scales and open questions.

Of the twelve students, eight (66%) were eligible. Pre-placement results indicated students hoped to gain skills in all focus areas: clinical, professional and personal. Likert scales and post-placement results showed students gained confidence in all areas and also developed their sense of self, resilience, and adaptation.

The results of this study reveal an increased confidence in clinical knowledge and skills, time management, treatment planning abilities, and oral disease recognition. Students reported the placement experience enabled them to reflect on the importance of collaborating in a multidisciplinary team and developing their cultural competence.

This study proved an insight into students clinical, professional and personal skills development, and growth of their sense of self, resilience and adaptation during an international outreach placement.