A reflection on our first year of foundation training
Jatinder Moore and Shreya Shah graduated in 2014 from King's College London. Having undergone the DF1 application process in their final year of dental school they both gained appointments in their first choice schemes and are currently practising in the West Midlands and East of England Deaneries respectively.
The aim of this article is to share our experiences from the past six months as we have transitioned from dental school undergraduates facing final examinations to fully qualified dentists facing all the excitement and nerves of our first jobs. We hope this article will help future young dentists in their transition from university to foundation dentistry by explaining what we have learnt, and most importantly how to make the most of it!
We can both without a doubt say that DF1 so far has been a great experience. We have learnt so much and improved greatly as dentists. Dental foundation training has provided a supportive environment for us to put into practice all we had learnt at dental school and it is a very useful year in that we are able to train without business and time pressures.
At the beginning of the year we were able to take our time to build up clinical confidence and learn from every clinical experience. Despite this, we were still seeing more patients in a day than we would sometimes see in a week at dental school. It is this vast amount of hands on experience that has meant we have naturally speeded up as we have progressed to the midpoint of the year whilst still feeling competent and confident in what we are doing.
There is a big difference between university and practice. We both can agree that those first steps when examining and treatment planning independently can be daunting, despite looking forward to it all through final year. However, rest assured everything will click into place and the independent decision-making will become a part of being in practice that you will really enjoy. The freedom to assess, diagnose, construct and complete a cohesive treatment plan independently is very rewarding after all the hard work at university gaining these skills.
DF1 can present you with a number of potentially stressful situations; challenges from timing, different materials being available, communication with patients, keeping on top of administrative tasks, and of course treatment itself. The situational judgment scenarios that you considered during the DF1 application process could actually present in front of you when you least expect it. Below are our top tips for DF1 to help you in the first few months and beyond:
- When things don't go to plan... Spend some time thinking about how to manage the situation in the short and long term. Inform the patient of the situation and clearly outline their options. However, do not dwell on it, there are many more patients to be seen during the day and each one deserves your full attention. At a later time, reflect on the situation, and seek advice from your trainer if you had not already done so. Consider why things did not go to plan, what you can learn, and changes you can make for the future.
- Establish a good relationship with your nurse... Your nurse can be a wealth of knowledge; they will have been at the practice longer than you and will know how the practice runs. Having a good relationship will make work something to look forward too and ensure things run smoothly for patients. Your nurse can really provide you with support whilst you are finding your feet.
- Don't feel uncomfortable explaining charges to patient... At dental school all the treatment we provided patients carried no charge for them. One of the differences of DF1 year from university is having to explain pricing and ask for payments from patients. This may make you feel uncomfortable the first few times you have to do this. However, remember that we are bound by the NHS regulations we work under and the NHS sets the banding and patient charges. Patients will appreciate clear and transparent information on the costs to them and it is your responsibility to provide this during their appointment. You will encourage a much healthier patient-dentist relationships if your patients are not being surprised with a bill they weren't expecting at the reception desk, and your receptionist will like you much better for it too!
- Talk to your fellow DF1's... You are not alone in the experiences you are facing. Your peers are an invaluable support system and discussion with others can help you realise that everyone is facing similar challenges and successes. Seize the opportunity to learn from each other's experiences.
- Don't forget to relax... You may no longer be with your circle of university friends for the first time and dentistry has the capability of being quite consuming at times. Socialising with friends and making dentistry not the topic of conversation is of upmost importance. Hobbies outside dentistry be it going to the gym, baking, or dinner and drinks with friends are essential for you to unwind so that you can go into work the next day fresh and able to face whatever challenges may come your way.
It has come to the point in our DF1 year where we are thinking of future career paths, and there are many options out there, all worth careful consideration. In regards to what we have left of our dental foundation year and the next six months ahead, we intend to make the most of what is an invaluable, exciting and steep learning opportunity. So, when your university learning draws to an end, graduation excitement is in the air, and dental foundation is around the corner, know that DF1 year is what you make of it. Grasp it both hands!
Jatinder Moore BDS (Hons) &
Shreya Shah BDS
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