Self-reported dental student stressors and experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic

J Dent Educ. 2020 Sep 14. doi: 10.1002/jdd.12409. Online ahead of print.

Abstract

Objective: To compare the influence of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic on the student reported outcomes among dental students reading/studying different courses offered in the only dental school in Malta.

Materials and methods: An anonymous questionnaire consisting of 13 closed-ended and open-ended questions was sent to all students (n = 97) at the Faculty of Dental Surgery at the University of Malta. Emergent themes from open-ended questions were identified and tallied. Since data were classified as categorical ranks, nonparametric tests were used to compare variables among the different courses, years of study, preclinical/clinical students, and gender categories.

Results: Dental technology students were significantly less stressed about contracting COVID-19 (P = 0.005) and regarding lack of preparation due to inability to physically go to the library (P = 0.019). Female students reported significantly more anxiety for the following factors: "feeling anxious all the time" (P = 0.033), "worried about contracting COVID-19'" (P = 0.012), "worried that a family member may contract COVID-19'" (P = 0.048), "more anxious about exams this year because of the challenges we are facing" (P = 0.029), and "concern about losing manual dexterity skills" (P = 0.038). Qualitative data gathered show considerable stress reported by students regarding changes in examination processes and formats and lack of timely communication.

Conclusion: Students were greatly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and this caused fear of losing their manual dexterity skills, anxiety related to its consequences on their long-term plans, and anxiety related to the examinations. Dental schools in turn should adapt rapidly and customize changes that are specific to the individual student cohort and their stage of training.

Keywords: COVID-19; anxiety; dental students; stress.