Your first year – the other side
Surinder Poonian reflects on her first year and the many opportunities now available to the newly qualified dentist.
Congratulations! You've made it - BDS in the bag after five most probably life changing years at University. You will soon be entering the working world and starting your career in dentistry with all the perks of a new lifestyle. Heed the advice of others who have completed their first year (particularly concerning key skills, case presentations and time management). It's invaluable. When you first start your first year you will be exhausted. There is so much to consider - travelling to and from work, your patients, your relationships with staff and development clinically and personally. Being out of the 'student bubble' it's important to keep on top of everything and be open to new ways of doing things whilst maintaining your high standard of dentistry. You are now a clinician and you are responsible for your own actions. Remember that it is what you are doing when nobody else is looking that defines your character.
Dentistry vocational training is a very exciting prospect and you have done so well to get to where you are today but remember, life is not just about teeth. 'A man's success is determined by what he does Monday to Friday but is measured by what he does Saturday and Sunday'. Once you're settled I strongly recommend you organise your year well. Make a list of aims and objectives with your trainer of what you want to achieve in and out of the surgery. Review this list regularly. This is a great learning opportunity for you as you have someone to guide you through what you are doing so take advantage. Think about any personal achievements or activities with which you would like to be involved. Remember that sports team you were in when you were in third year or that hobby you used to love when you were 16 years old? Find somewhere to get involved with it. It's important to maintain and develop yourself outside the surgery. These activities will also make you new friends and will help you de-stress and relax. Do something you're passionate about. It will bring a healthy balance to your life and mentality. Everybody is different, embrace this and do whatever it is that works for you.
I went on a ten day mission trip to Ecuador with 3 of my colleagues and 70 American dentists, students and dentist volunteers. This was an amazing opportunity to work abroad with a different group of people, providing free dental treatment to those who cannot afford it. A portable clinic was set up in a Church in Quito divided into prophylaxis, restorative and oral surgery. We also visited schools and distributed 7,000 toothbrushes by hand. There was a general medical assessment clinic and also an eye clinic which gave 700 people their sense of sight back. I was also able to teach and supervise some of the American students and the whole experience was very rewarding. Exploring Ecuador was fascinating as we visited the equator and some natural waterfalls. Not only did I meet some truly inspiring people, I also had the opportunity to improve my Spanish. It was an intense experience clinically, socially and spiritually and I would recommend anyone to research and participate in a dentist volunteering programme at home or abroad. We are blessed with a gift to heal people so why not use it?
I have also been on a karate training trip to the Czech Republic which was physically very demanding and again we explored the area which offered some stunning scenery. Training a few times a week has kept me physically and mentally fit. Keeping your body in shape when you're working can be challenging. Running and karate work well for me but there are numerous activities you can take up including walking, swimming, yoga, football, dance, racquet sports or a session down the local gym. Any activity that will increase your heart rate works. So after a charity tandem skydive for Haven House Children's Hospice and completing the three peak challenge (climbing Snowdon, Scafell Pike and Ben Nevis in 24 hours), my first year will be coming to an end. I will be handing in my key skills, giving my case presentation and moving on to a DF2 post.
First is a brilliant year; do not underestimate how quickly it will go by. You have so much time to do whatever you want to. I urge you to consider what it is you want to achieve and get involved. Remember, you are holding the pen to the story of your life. Enjoy!
Miss Surinder Poonian
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