Royal College of
Dental Surgeons of Ontario
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What's next for PET? More innovation for better dentistry!

Originally published in Issue 1 of Dispatch in 2017

The College’s Practice Enhancement Tool (PET) is a vital component of the College’s Quality Assurance Program. It allows dentists to complete a computer-based self-assessment program to measure continued competence. Our Quality Assurance regulation requires every member with a general or specialty certificate of registration to complete a PET assessment once every five years.

Launched in January 2013, the PET was a first of its kind, not only among health care regulators in Ontario, but also in the country. Back then, the College did not support the usual approaches to quality assurance assessments, like office visits. We opted for a more nurturing and positive approach to quality assurance. The PET was an innovative solution that allowed dentists to accept the primary responsibility for their continuous professional and personal learning.

A PET self-assessment consists of 200 multiple choice and case study questions, covering six different areas of practice.

The College has worked closely with The National Dental Examining Board of Canada (NDEB) and Dr. Vicki LeBlanc, Associate Professor at the University of Ottawa’s Department of Innovation in Medical Education, in the development, delivery and ongoing evaluation of the PET to ensure its validity and integrity. Over time, it has grown to include fifteen competency areas.

Since the PET’s launch, more than 6,000 members have completed their assessment. As expected, the overwhelming majority were successful in their first attempt. For those few members who were unsuccessful, many contacted the College’s dedicated Practice Enhancement Consultant for assistance with professional development and recommendations for continuing education. The vast majority of these members were successful in their second attempt.

From the beginning, members had a positive response and experience with the PET. You told us that the self-assessment is well administered, fair for the average clinician, educational, extremely user friendly, yet challenging and rewarding – not to mention, surprisingly enjoyable!

It was important for us to hear from the experts as well. Recently, the College provided the NDEB with anonymized PET results for statistical analysis to ensure the effectiveness of the testing methodology.

Dr. Jack Gerrow, Executive Director and Registrar of the NDEB, reported back and had great things to say about the PET. “The results were excellent… Overall, your question selection process and the question selectors in particular have produced a very useful and reliable tool.”

Dr. LeBlanc, expert consultant and independent reviewer of the PET, also had great things to say. “Overall, the PET appears to be a reliable innovative tool that allows RCDSO members to evaluate their knowledge relevant to the broad practice of dentistry. Furthermore, the PET does not appear to disfavour members based on their domain of practice or their geographical location of practice.”

We are very proud of this success. So much so, we are working to take the PET to the next level. Based on feedback from our members, the College, in conjunction with the NDEB and Dr. LeBlanc, is developing additional versions of the PET that will be directed to the various dental specialties.

The first step will be a specialty assessment for orthodontists and oral and maxillofacial surgeons, which will include their core competency area and those additional competency areas that are most relevant to the practice of their specialty. Just as the original PET grew over time, this new version of the PET will evolve to address other specialties. The College is now preparing for a new five-year PET cycle, beginning in January 2018. Members who were initially selected to complete the PET in 2013 will be notified in late 2017 and into 2018, advising them of the new five-year PET cycle, their respective start date and password, as well as six different competency areas for their assessment.

Whether you are wrapping up the first PET cycle or will enter the new cycle in 2018, the College’s Practice Enhancement Consultant is available to support dentists throughout the process. The consultant can suggest resources that may support and complement professional development, help identify learning needs, interpret and discuss assessment results, and provide guidance in appropriate continuing education activities.

All in all, it has been a very successful first PET cycle and the College looks forward to your feedback as this unique self-assessment tool evolves in the next cycle.