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Why an Irish graduate dentist chose to do foundation dentistry in Scotland

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Why an Irish graduate dentist chose to do foundation dentistry in Scotland

Davina Graham graduated with honours from Trinity College Dublin in 2012. She is currently working as a Foundational Dental Practitioner (FDP) at Millersneuk Dental Practice, in Glasgow, Scotland.

I always knew there was a high probability that I would have to move away from Ireland to find work following graduation. With the current economic climate and all of the cuts to the dental sector, full time employment is now quite difficult to find, and as a new graduate, you are automatically at the bottom of the pecking order.

Although foundation training is not mandatory for Irish graduates, it is something that always interested me. I liked the idea of working in general practice, gaining speed and confidence at a healthy pace, in an environment where you can seek advice from your trainer when needed. Being salaried also relieves any financial pressures, which is important when starting out because there are already enough things to worry about!

I chose to apply for jobs in Scotland because I always liked the country, and I'd been told that the dental foundation programme in Scotland was of a very high standard and well regarded. However, I did find the recruitment process quite difficult and it appears to be aimed more at Scottish graduates. Unlike the England and Wales interviews, which are completed on one day by a panel, you have to contact Scottish trainers directly, send them your CV and hope they invite you for interview at their practices. If you are successful (preference is definitely given to Scottish graduates as foundation training is mandatory for them) finding times that suit both parties is quite tricky and often impossible if you're coming from Ireland and flights don't always coincide with trainers availability. You then have the added challenge finding their practices and the travel expenses start to add up!!

However, I wouldn't let these potential obstacles deter people from applying. The outcome definitely outweighs everything. I have absolutely no regrets about the process and was lucky enough to be offered a job in a great practice. I haven't looked back since.

I found the move went smoother than anticipated. I thought I might be homesick but I settled into Glasgow very quickly. It is a lovely city with welcoming friendly people. I have never felt unsafe here and there are excellent restaurants, loads of amenities, lovely parks and it is absolutely brilliant if you like to shop!

It's safe to say that I was a little unsure about what to expect when I started my job. Would I fit in? Would the staff like me? Would I be able to understand their accents? Would they understand my accent? What are their expectations of me? What are the patients going to think of me?

However within a few days I had settled in with no problems. There were some initial adjustments for the nurses due to me being left-handed yet working in a right-handed chair (I was pretty used to this having gone through dental school with only right-handed chairs!) but other than that, there were very few hiccups.

I'm now six months into my year as a foundation dentist and I already feel like I've gained a huge amount of confidence and experience. My speed and efficiency have increased exponentially with the quality of my work remaining constant and to the high standard I was taught in my undergraduate training. I'd say over 50% of my patients are children - which appears to be more than some of my other foundation training colleagues. This presents many joys and challenges, but there is nothing more rewarding than having a happy child at the end of treatment, and knowing that you've helped improve both their oral and overall health.

The practice also caters for patients who have dental phobias, and sedation is offered to them if suitable. I feel very lucky to be given the experience of treating sedated patients and playing a part in their journey of overcoming their dental fears.

Throughout the year, we as foundation dentists have 25 'study days'. They include talks, workshops and going on courses or to conferences. These days reinforce the importance of continued professional development. It's also fun getting together with the other foundation dentists, exchanging personal experiences and then going for the odd drink afterwards!

I'm really looking forward to seeing what the second half of the year brings. I'm confident that I will continue to learn new things and improve my skill set, while always maintaining a high level of patient care.

I'm not sure what I'll end up doing after my foundation dental year is over. I love working in Scotland and I think there is a very efficient and well-provided NHS dental service here. Long-term I'd like to work back in Ireland but there are so many other opportunities out there and one has to be open-minded to them all! I feel that I've gained so much from the year so far that whatever I end up doing, the experience and knowledge that I've acquired will always stand to me.

These are my hints and tips

  • Get your CV and application process done early. It is quite time consuming and you don't want it to effect studying for finals.
  • Try and not limit yourself to applying only to practices in the big cities – they're going to be the most popular!!
  • Be sensible with your money – we're paid well for new graduates, but it disappears fast if you're not careful!
  • Always keep communication open with your other dental colleagues. Bounce experiences (both good and bad) off them. If you feel stressed, seek advice.
  • Keep active and watch your posture and back! Less than a year into my career and I've already got a physiotherapist!!

Davina Graham


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