By: Heaven Osborne
The Dental Assistants Club at Volunteer State Community College is currently inactive due to loss of membership following the Covid-19 pandemic. The club disbanded after pandemic regulations prevented them from participating in their normal club activities in the community and congregating in large groups. Before they were dissolved, the Dental Assistant Club took part in several community events such as visits to assisted living homes and daycares and several campus events like the food drive and the campus Halloween party. The club also helped raise funds to pay for the licensing and state exams for students enrolled in the Dental Assisting Program at Vol State. Desiree Sutphen, director of the Dental Assisting Program, said the Dental Assisting Club can be reinstated when students show interest and are able to participate fully again.
According to a study conducted by BMC Psychology, “COVID-19 disrupted the lives of most students, with only 26.4% stating the pandemic has not impacted their current or future plans.”
In previous years, Dental Assistant students and club members would visit daycares in the Gallatin community and perform a skit with toothbrushes and floss and provide activities for the children. Dental Assistant students would present proper brushing techniques to the children and help them with an activity such as a coloring book or Play-Doh dental set. The skit and activities helped to reduce some of the fear and stigma around going to the dentist for young children, said Director Sutphen.
The Dental Assistants Club would also reach out to assisted living facilities in the community to provide similar care. In assisted living facilities, “Students would provide a skit then spend time with the residents,” said Sutphen.
Members of the club participated in Free Dental Healthcare Days in Gallatin and Cookeville. On these days, people in the Gallatin and Cookeville communities could go to participating clinics and receive free dental care from Vol State dental assistant students and other dental healthcare volunteers.
The Dental Assistant Club has not been reinstated after the height of the Covid-19 pandemic because of the lack of participation from the students currently enrolled in the Dental Assistant Program at Vol State.
“The students are at difficult places; just trying to survive and make enough money to afford gas to get here,” said Director Sutphen. “I can’t make them participate if it’s not in their hearts to do so.”
In the study regarding college students effected by the Covid-19 pandemic, BMC Psychology reported, “Increased anxiety, depression, and feeling of loneliness were found in 60.8%, 54.1%, and 59.8% of the weighted population, respectively. More than eighty percent (83.8%) reported an increase in at least one of these three symptoms”.
Studies surrounding the pandemic have shown feelings of hopelessness in college students and uneasy feelings at the instability of societal functions. Likewise, rising economic difficulty for students has increased anxiety and uncertainty around future plans.
Director Sutphen said that she consistently helps her students with lab supplies, food, and finding places to fulfill clinical hours required in the program. She said, the Dental Assisting Club will not be reinstated until there is more student interest, and the difficult times resulting from the pandemic have made the students uninterested in doing so.