For the most part, students know what they are getting into when they enroll in a program. For many they are fulfilling a long-held dream. They have researched. They have worked hard at completing pre-requisite requirements for admission. They have applied, prayed and crossed their fingers waiting to hear whether or not they got a seat in highly competitive Medical Education Campus (MEC) programs. When they get the notification that they got in, they are nothing short of elated.
What about spouses, significant others, children and friends? Did they know what they were getting into when their loved one made it into the program? Did they know they would often be eating at fast food restaurants while their student is studying for an exam at the library? Did they know they would be doing the laundry and picking up after little ones as their student was working diligently in class?
In fact, according to Dr. Howard Kelley, director of NOVA’s Restorative Dental Clinic, the number one reason why students drop out of the Dental Hygiene Program is a lack of understanding on the part of a spouse or significant other about not just what will be required of the student to succeed but what sacrifices they must make. On Thursday, August 22, NOVA’s Dental Hygiene Program held an “Orientation for Spouses of First Year Students” session at the MEC.
In a recent survey of MEC program participants, students were asked, “What three things do you wish your spouse knew about you and this program during the first six months of your enrollment?” Responses included understanding of the large amount of research and study time necessary, as well as time in class and at clinical sites. Internal stressors were identified as grade importance, test frequency, volume of reading assignments and material to review, feelings of overload, no break from the “grind” at home or school, need to anticipate and prepare for loss of sleep, disposable income, family time, housekeeping and grocery shopping. Spouses were encouraged to “keep their eyes on the prize” and anticipate, upon graduation, an increase in family income, flexible work schedules in the field, ultimately more family time and an eventual return to normal life.
This unique orientation provided an opportunity for spouses and significant others to prepare for the two years ahead of them. They were given “food for thought” as to common needs on the part of students. They were also given the opportunity to connect with one another so they can hopefully lend support throughout the coming journey.