Bulletin of Dental Education

Role-Play Activities Prepare Students for Careers

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The Coastal Alabama Community College Dental Assisting Program’s faculty and staff are dedicated to finding ways to improve. This year, the program is implementing two new assignments for dental assisting students.

In the first assignment, the students will engage in real-life scenarios that will be simulated in the preclinical area of the dental lab. Students will each be assigned a case study that they must learn and thoroughly act out as if they were making an actual trip to the dentist. For example, some students will be acting as the patient and others will be acting as the dental assistant, the real challenge of the assignment. The dental assistant student must use critical thinking skills to help solve the issues the patient is experiencing. It is important for these students to be challenged in critical thinking at this point in the program.

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At this point, the students have had two semesters to learn program materials and tooth numbers and participate in a clinical internship. The students are at a level where they should be advancing and becoming well-rounded dental assistants who can handle a variety of dental concerns. In a dental practice, procedures are likely to change from what was scheduled. Patients come in and the dental staff are expecting to provide scheduled treatment, but for a variety of reasons, the schedule often needs to be changed.

To make it more realistic, students are asked to observe at least one scenario of a patient who comes in the office for a limited exam or an emergency exam. They write down every detail the patient encounters and bring the information to class, without including a diagnosis from the dentist or information from the staff. The gathered information is used to create scenarios for the students’ assignment.

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Faculty and staff want to challenge these students to take information given to them and process it in a way that demonstrates the best practice for patient care. The program director had already started preparing case studies for the students to enhance their critical thinking skills, after receiving feedback from affiliate dentists and staff that the students were lacking in this area.

In the second assignment, the program will implement a mock interview. The students will dress in professional business attire and sit through an interview with an instructor as the hiring employer. Students will use their own resumes to present to the employer as well as be coached on professionalism and etiquette for the interview process. The goal is to stress the importance of being professional and respectful.

The objective is to give students the chance to complete a mock interview prior to interviewing with potential employers. This will give instructors an opportunity to assess what the students know about this important step in their career, see how they conduct themselves through the process and offer any guidance. The students create a resume as part of the program and adding this next step will help them feel more prepared when the time comes to be interviewed for employment.

We are very proud to implement these new exercises into the Coastal Alabama Community College Dental Assisting Program and hope to see positive results as well as positive feedback from our dental affiliates in the future.

Courtesy of Lisa Singleton, CDA, RDH, B.S., Dental Assisting Program Director, Coastal Alabama Community College

Published on July 13, 2022

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