Volunteer Patient Program

Are you able to help our Adelaide Dental School students learn how to communicate well with patients? There’s no dental treatment involved, and no acting experience required.

Dental student in the simulation clinic

The Adelaide Dental School Volunteer Patient Program involves members of the public helping our dental and oral hygiene/therapy students learn the critical skill of effective patient communication. The program is part of the communication skills course in both the Bachelor of Dental Surgery and Bachelor of Oral Health degrees.

Good communication skills are a vital part of being a good dentist or oral hygienist/therapist. Dentists and oral hygienists/therapists need to be able to communicate well with their patients for many reasons, such as to:

  • obtain sufficient and accurate information from patients about their dental and oral health
  • sensitively explain to patients the results of an examination, or about possible treatment
  • effectively educate patients about how to care for their own dental and oral health
  • reassure patients feeling anxious about their dental treatment.

This is why, as a volunteer helping to prepare our students to eventually interact with real dental patients, you’ll be providing an extremely valuable service to your community.

What is involved?

As a volunteer patient, you’ll participate in communication role-plays with Bachelor of Dental Surgery and Bachelor of Oral Health students. That could involve the student: asking you a series of questions; pretending to teach you about oral health; or pretending to help you cope with dental anxiety.

You’ll be provided with guidelines on how to respond, of course, and all sessions are supervised by staff who provide guidance for students throughout. You will also be welcome to give the students feedback yourself about your 'patient experience'.

Who can be a volunteer patient?

Absolutely anyone who is interested in helping students learn communication skills can be a volunteer patient.

We welcome volunteers of all ages and backgrounds (e.g. education, culture/ethnicity, work experience), who speak various languages, not just English, and who may be able-bodied or have a disability. People with natural teeth, and people with dentures.

The wider the variety of volunteers, the more valuable experiences our students will gain.

What level of commitment is required?

You can be a volunteer patient for just this year, or on an ongoing basis, according to your preference and availability. In the year(s) that you volunteer, you will need to come to the Dental School for training and teaching sessions.

Information and training sessions

There will be information and training sessions provided and we ask that all volunteers attend at least one. At the session we will provide information about the program, demonstrate volunteer patients in action, show a training video, and answer any questions you may have.

Teaching sessions

There will be a number of volunteer patient teaching sessions involving second and third-year Bachelor of Dental Surgery students, and first-year Bachelor of Oral Health students. You can choose to participate in as many or as few sessions as you prefer, depending on your availability.

Each teaching session will run for approximately three hours, with each volunteer patient working in a tutorial room with a small group of about six students and their tutor. A rest break will be taken mid-way through.


Morning or afternoon tea will be provided for volunteer patients at every session.

Transport and parking

We will reimburse you for public transport travel and/or your parking expenses for each time you volunteer, and during training and teaching sessions.

Learn more or register

For more information about the Adelaide Dental School Volunteer Patient Program, or to register your interest in participating, please contact the University Volunteer Program or Adelaide Dental School lecturer, Mr Clinton Kempster on the details below.

University Volunteer Program
Email: volunteer@adelaide.edu.au

Clinton Kempster (Office days: Mon, Wed, Thurs, Fri)
Lecturer, Adelaide Dental School
Phone: +61 8 8313 8279
Email: clinton.kempster@adelaide.edu.au

Please note that Clinton work's part-time, so may not be able to respond immediately to your enquiry.

  • Frequently asked questions

    Will I be examined, treated or receive any dental advice?
    No. You will not be required to undergo dental care of any sort. Volunteer patient sessions are not dental visits.

    Do I need any acting skill or experience?
    No. We want everyday people to come and interact with our students just as if they were visiting the dentist. We don’t need experienced or professional actors. We will provide training sessions for new volunteers in which we’ll demonstrate and explain what’s involved.

    Will my real personal details be used in the role-plays?
    No. You will not be required to disclose any personal information (e.g. medical or dental) during the communication role-plays. You will be given a false name to use, and when answering the student dentist’s role-play questions you can respond according to the guidelines provided by staff.

    If, however, you would actually find it convenient and comfortable to use some of your own personal, medical or dental information during the role-play, you will be welcome to do so.

    Are details about my participation confidential?
    Yes. All records and teaching sessions will remain absolutely confidential.

    Will it cost me anything?
    No. The only commitment is your time. As mentioned above, we will provide refreshments and pay your travel or parking costs.

    How are sessions supervised?
    All training and teaching sessions are run by qualified teaching staff from the Adelaide Dental School. Their role is to support the students and you, the volunteer patients.

    They will also provide advice and feedback to both groups, and help make the sessions as valuable as possible.

    When are the sessions held?
    Information and training sessions are held in late July, and teaching sessions run in August, September and October.
    Sessions are held on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons, generally from 12.45pm to 4pm, although occasional sessions may end at 5pm.

    What benefit do I get from being a volunteer patient?
    As a volunteer patient, you will: have the reward of contributing to the education of our future dentists, hygienists and therapists; meet other volunteer patients, many students and our school staff; and feel the pride of contributing to your community.

    What if I cannot attend a session?
    If you’re unable to attend a session, please contact the Volunteer Patient Program Coordinator (Dr Vicki Skinner) as soon as possible so that we can arrange for a substitute.

    What if I can no longer take part in the program?
    We understand people’s lives change, so if you find you’re no longer able to commit to being a volunteer patient it won’t be a problem. Simply contact the Volunteer Patient Program Coordinator (Dr Vicki Skinner) as soon as possible so that we can update our records.

    We’ll be disappointed to lose you, of course, but very grateful for the service you’ve provided, and we’ll happily welcome you back should your circumstances again change.