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Ten tips before commencing work in a dental practice

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Ten tips before commencing work in a dental practice

Karen Grealis graduated from Dublin in 2012. In this article she shares some of her tips for starting working in a dental practice.

As a newly qualified dentist you will probably just want to chill and forget about dentistry for a few months before entering the big bad world of employment. That's what I thought too! However, I found that the most stressful part of my Foundation Training year to date was getting organised before even start treating patients!! There is lots to organise so I cannot emphasise enough how important getting things together is.

1. Get registered with the General Dental Council

This takes longer than you think it will! Remember it is a particularly busy period for the General Dental Council as they need to get all UK graduates registered so if you are missing forms etc. from your application don't expect them to be phoning you! Your application will be assigned to a certain person so keep on top of things. Email them to ensure they have received all the necessary documents. You cannot apply for registration until after you graduate but it does take time to be processed so be organised! I sent my application off the day after I graduated yet it only came through the morning I was starting Foundation Training. You cannot treat patients without being registered so arriving at work on the first day without a General Dental Council number won't go down too well with your trainer!

2. National Insurance, bank account etc…

You need obtain a National Insurance number. This ensures you are able to pay the appropriate tax so try to get this sorted before starting work. You should also register with a medical practice so you receive a health number. You need to set up a bank account which can be difficult when you may not have accommodation sorted so won't have an address. My advice, use your home address if you can until you find accommodation! Remember, if you don't have a bank account, you can't be paid!!

3. Contract & holidays

Read your contract before signing it. You will be entitled to a certain number of holidays. However, don't go rushing out to book that month-long holiday! Statutory days will be included in this so work out how many of those there are. Then there are days that the practice shuts that you will be asked to take leave (especially around Christmas). After this you are left with your "actual" holidays.

On the subject of holidays, I know that next summer and completing foundation training seems like a lifetime away as you have not even started yet but before you know it you will find yourself trawling through the internet looking for a hospital year or an associate position. Whatever the case may be, you will have to attend interviews so ensure you keep a certain number of your holidays for this!

4. Visit your practice

Go visit and shadow the current foundation training dentist for a day if possible. This means you have more of any idea about what to expect on your first day. It is also a good idea to contact the practice the day before you start to learn what patients are booked in - this will lead to a more peaceful sleep. When you start working learn what materials there are in the practice and where things are kept. Have a chat with your trainer, as they probably have other materials in their surgery that you can also use.

5. Be kind to your nurses!

Foundation training is different to Dental School. You will spend most of your week with the same person so it makes sense to get on with them! You will rely on them for the first while until you get to know what services are available to patients. They know the system and the patients better than you and will be more willing to help if you get on well.

6. Make the most of your time.

Time goes by very quickly so don't sit back and doddle. By Christmas you will be comfortable with more routine treatments. If however there are treatments you are not doing routinely, ask the other associates/your trainer for patients requiring those treatments. Ask your trainer to observe you if you are uncertain- it is not a test, it's a way of learning - they will share experiences and tips that you do not find written in textbooks!

7. Don't be afraid to give things a go.

Do not shy out of treatments that you are less confident with. Your trainer knows that you have not seen everything in college, that's the main purpose of your foundation training year. A lot of new graduates are hesitant about extractions. If this is the case, show your trainer the pre-op radiograph and if they say go ahead then go ahead. If a tooth breaks it is not the end of the world- it is to be extracted anyway, now it just may take a while longer! Next year you won't have anybody to help you and you will be wondering why you didn't ask for more help during foundation training.

8. Get used to your trainer observing you.

In Northern Ireland, our trainers observe us for 18 procedures throughout the year. It is daunting at the start- you feel like you are being examined. However, as the year goes on and your schedule gets busier you will find yourself booking procedures you are unsure of into these sessions as you realise they are a great opportunity to learn and it becomes more of a tutorial than an exam.

9. Have confidence in your own ability.

Although I have spoken about not being afraid to ask for help it is also very important to have confidence in your own ability. You have just studied endlessly to pass your final exams so everything is fresh in your head. If you appear confident with patients then you will naturally become confident. Trust me - you know more than you think and you are capable of more than you realise!

10. Enjoy it

Last but not least - enjoy your year! Make the most of living in a new city and meeting new people because it will all be over before you know it.

Karen Grealis


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