Working in my first dental practice
in Working Life
Sami Stagnell explains his experiences working in his first practice.
You spend five years desperate to get those simple three letters after your name.
You sweat over exams and case presentations, patients and books, and yearn for that freedom that comes with being qualified. The thought of telling people you are actually a dentist without having to explain the ‘well I’m nearly a dentist’ bit, seems such a sweet ideal, then suddenly: you qualify. All of a sudden you wish you were back at university. The comfort zone is gone. In truth it’s not so bad, it’s just the fear of the unknown. The reality is that they wouldn’t have let you leave if they didn’t think you were safe (yes it’s true…).
The run up to your first job is stressful in itself, and the satisfaction of knowing you now have a job is such a great feeling. For me the biggest thrill was finally leaving the place I called home – and sometimes hell – to take charge of my own destiny. Hopefully before you pick your job you will do some research about where you are going. Take the time to check out where is good to live. Visit the estate agents, spend a weekend around the town, get a feel for what you are getting yourself into or it can be a shock when you realise that you start work in a week and have to find somewhere to live! That brings me to tip two: it may sound all grown-up but take a few minutes to think about a budget. It will make all the difference when now you have to pay out for things you didn’t before at university. It won’t take you long and you will save yourself a world of pain at the end of the first month when you feel in control of your salary and your life.
The scariest thing is being given the reins to do what you want with your patients. We are so used to having someone peer over our shoulder for years that the first time we make a decision we go slightly quiet and have to stop ourselves from saying ‘let me just get someone to check…’ You’ll be happy to know this subsides quickly. Not least because we do more work in four weeks than we did in four years, which surely pushes you along. Don’t be afraid to discuss cases with your colleagues. Hopefully they’ve done this a bit longer than you and will have lots to help you with. Furthermore speak to your mentors and other young dentists. The more I speak to colleagues the more I realise everyone fails to see they are surrounded by others in exactly the same boat. Air your thoughts and you’ll feel much better when it dawns on you that you’re not alone. Don’t forget that it doesn’t matter where we are in life, everyone ahead of you has been where you are now and got through it.
The other thing that helped get me through was remembering that life isn’t just your job. It doesn’t matter how much you love dentistry, you simply cannot survive on a diet of crown preps, whitening trays and evidence-based practice. It doesn’t work. Remember all those things you did at uni; sports, hobbies? Even if you didn’t, now is a good time to start. Balance your life and your mind and you’ll feel better when you get the chance to switch off and get away from your 9-5. It will also give you a chance to meet others outside of dentistry, which is always a nice change.
Lastly, I can’t begin to stress how important it is to just have… fun! It is important that you enjoy what you do and it’s great if you can turn up every day with a smile. No, that won’t be every day but remember to enjoy yourself in everything you do and you will really get the most out of what you do during your first year.
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