Dentistry is less stressful than medicine

"Mental Assault" : Dentistry students complain about harassment at the university

Students report that they are labeled "stupid and lazy". Supervisors gave them the feeling of "being undesirable". Lecturers appeared “frustrated and reluctant” to teach the students something. Such judgments can be found on the “Studycheck” portal in dentistry. And not just for the Berlin Charité, where new students - as last reported in October - complain of serious grievances. Desperate comments also come from the university hospitals in Hanover and Bonn.

"When things like this happen in the Bundeswehr, the armed forces commissioner intervenes," says a student from Hanover on the phone. For fear of reprisals, he does not want to see his name in the newspaper, but his statements appear credible due to his detailed knowledge of the preclinical processes. Chicane is part of everyday life, you can hardly defend yourself, reports the student. "Here you put democratic conditions at the entrance, or you can no longer study," someone is told.

The report by a Charité first-year student, which he wrote for the student advisory service and made available to the Tagesspiegel, also sounds dramatic. After the technical-propaedeutic course, the young man accuses his lecturer of “psychological bodily harm”. He suffers from "panic attacks, palpitations and lack of sleep" after a professor made notes on wrong answers for all to see and "a complete chaos" reigned in the overcrowded laboratory. “You want to screen and not train,” complains the high school graduate.

Is something fundamentally wrong in dentistry? Is there a rough tone, especially in the dental technical internships? The reports suggest that students whose very good high school graduation marks testify to their willingness to perform will be offended by high technical demands, an enormous workload and teachers who are not very empathetic. In a reader's comment on Tagesspiegel Online, however, the “hubris” of high school graduates is also criticized, who dared to do more than they did then.

Mother and dentist are outraged by "educational measures"

However, angry parents also complain. A prosthetics professor at the Charité explained to new students in the laboratory that “they are not at the university to study, but that they want to test their skills,” the mother of one student wrote to the newspaper. Her son passed his exams because he practices extensively with a dental technician. Nevertheless, the woman who claims to be a dentist is outraged by questionable "educational measures". Work by assistants would be "sent back again and again with the order: 'Again again'" without giving reasons.

Criticism of the study conditions is not unheard of in the dentists' guild. The preclinical is "a very sensitive field", says Christian Sternat, student representative in the German Dental Association. “The time pressure is great, the demands are high and, in addition to the medical field of study, difficult.” At Sternat, however, what can also be heard from other dentists: The pressure to perform and the demands on craftsmanship are rightly so high.

Dentists see college as a tough but necessary exercise

It is true that one would not make permanent dentures in professional life - that is the responsibility of the dental technician. But dentists are responsible for what patients end up with in their mouths. You have to be able to assess the quality of the prosthetics and adjust it individually. Everyday practice is also extremely stressful, and studying is a tough but necessary exercise.

Nevertheless, “the criticism from the course is understandable,” says Sternat. "Dental technology is our second big hurdle after the numerus clausus." The fact that many new students have difficulties in the laboratory is not surprising even to Andreas Zenthöfer, private lecturer at the University of Heidelberg and general secretary of the Association of University Professors in Dentistry, Oral and Maxillofacial Medicine. “Many are highly intelligent, but their studies also require great practical skills.” Often, new students “have not checked or trained this”.

"It costs a lot of tears, but it toughens you up"

Zenthöfer rejects the impression given by students that they should be deliberately checked out. In many places there is a malus system for the allocation of funds by the university management if the rate of diarrhea or dropouts is too high. “Anything that permanently exceeds a quota of 30 percent is too much.” In Heidelberg, it is an average of 15 percent in the pre-clinical phase. However, there are fluctuations depending on the performance of the student cohort.

In Berlin, at least for partial exams in the dental phantom course, over 70 percent reported failures. At the end of the last phantom course I, the rate was 30 percent, they said. Nevertheless, as in the previous year, an additional check was allowed beyond the usual two unsuccessful attempts.

Could the dental technology courses be a legitimate instrument for selecting first-year students who are in the wrong subject because of a lack of dexterity or stamina? Even with generally positive comments from successful students - "Everything is possible!" "Good atmosphere!" - "Studycheck" often sounds dubious: In Göttingen, "a somewhat depressing hierarchy" is experienced. One who has already passed the state examination writes: "It costs a lot of tears, but it toughens you up." The conflicting verdict of a student in Frankfurt am Main is: "A fight that is worthwhile." She goes on to write: "If it weren't for the nasty doctors who look after the pre-hospital, evaluate the work and aren't always entirely fair."

A certificate for every step - that can be harassing

Is there an awareness of the problem on the part of teachers in dentistry for the grievances complained about? "I don't know whether the course has to be 'nice'," says Andreas Zenthöfer. The fact that he and his colleagues in the laboratory “issue a certificate for every step” could definitely “have a harassing effect”. But in the past decade a lot has changed for the better in teaching. The teachers in Heidelberg would have to complete university didactic courses. And with the student evaluations, the students would have “a powerful instrument”.

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