INTRODUCTION: The quick spread of COVID-19 has caused part of the world's population to adopt quarantine protocols that have limited professional activities, including dental training programmes. This study aimed to explore the experiences of students and personnel at a Chilean dental school during the COVID-19 pandemic.
MATERIALS AND METHODS: This phenomenological descriptive qualitative study reported staff and students' experiences during the pandemic through in-depth, semi-structured interviews. These were recorded on audio and video with a digital platform. Three researchers then transcribed and analyzed the recordings and codified the answers into categories to determine the emerging topics until a saturation point was reached.
RESULTS: The core emerging themes among the staff group were (1) change in the personal/professional life balance, (2) online learning through digital platforms, (3) staff perceptions of students' learning experiences, and (4) concerns about the future. For students, the themes were (1) changes in the learning process, (2) online learning through digital platforms, (3) interpersonal relationships, and (4) concerns about the future.
CONCLUSION: The COVID-19 pandemic has been a period of learning for our dental school staff and students. Even though online learning has been a useful tool for delivering didactic (theoretical) concepts, it has been unable to replace conventional education, including skills training. Students and teachers reported being overwhelmed at the beginning of the pandemic, but they have shown remarkable adaptability and resilience during this period.