Family the strongest motivator for international dentists working in UK

Family is the most common personal reason dentists from abroad come to work in the UK, according to a new study.

Among the other main drivers are being actively recruited, better opportunities for advanced clinical training, post-graduate education, better pay, and to escape a stagnating or a limited career in the home country.

The research by Latha Davda, Clinical Director at the University of Portsmouth Dental Academy, examined dentists who had qualified outside the UK who were now working here.

Her work was praised as outstanding by the International Association for Dental Research, for which she received an award.

Mrs Davda said: In the year when the NHS is celebrating its 70th anniversary, I am pleased that the contributions of the international dentists in the UK is being recognised. Being an international dentist myself, it was amazing to learn about the different trajectories and experiences of these dentists who overcame so many barriers to work in the UK.

“The UK is an established destination for dentists from abroad, with many dentists especially those from EU countries coming for a year or two and with some staying to work here for much longer. We were interested in what drives dentists to come here and want to stay working in the UK and also on what their integration experiences were.

“There has been a great deal of research examining the migrant choices of doctors and nurses, but until now no one has looked at what motivates dentists to migrate to the UK.”

She found dentist migrants’ motivations fell into six broad categories:

  • Travelling to the UK for a better life and better pay;
  • To use the UK’s excellence in postgraduate clinical training to enhance their career;
  • For travel and adventure;
  • Commuters, who travel back and forth between their home country and the UK, where dual registration was allowed;
  • Because a wife or husband had been recruited to another job in the UK;
  • Dentists in the UK working as dental care professionals, in dental trade, education or in non-dental field, or not working.

All the migrants interviewed had their own mixture of motivations for coming to work in the UK, from the professional to the personal and the practical.
Across all six categories the main professional motivation for being here was that they’d been actively sought after by UK employers, including the NHS.

Entering the UK as a postgraduate dental student was also common.

The main personal reason was family, which was cited across all categories, with decisions driven by, for example, a husband or wife being given a job in the UK; existing family ties in the UK; past history of family links to the UK; the chance to provide a better life for children.

Other personal reasons included the desire to build a better life, with some seeing working in the UK as a natural progression, a window of opportunity or a stepping stone.

Mrs Davda also examined what drove individuals to work in another country on a more practical level. Among the reasons given were to widen and enhance clinical skills; to avoid career stagnation; and to work in a better environment.

The research was an in-depth qualitative study of 38 dental professionals from 25 nations, across the regions of South East Asia, the Pacific, Europe, Africa, and the Americas. The participants were men and women aged 24-64, with an average age of 40. They had worked in the UK from six months to 22 years.

Further research is being carried out on the integration experiences of these dentists once in the UK. It is hoped this will help to inform policies on retention and training of the dental workforce.

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