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First month as a Foundation Dentist


  Posted by: The Probe      29th November 2019

Charlotte Gentry presents her first experiences as a newly qualified dentist.

Well… lets just say this first month in the working world has quite possibly been the most overwhelming, scary yet exciting month of my life so far. I’ve discussed many different things in my articles, however, they’ve all been from a students’ perspective. We learned in a hospital environment, where time and resources aren’t really relative to the life of a general dental practitioner. This first month really has been a learning curve.

Walking into my surgery on the first day, I was beyond excited to get going and start being the ‘hero’ dentist I had always aspired to be. I think we all have a vision of the type of dentist we want to be – we all want to be liked, we all want patients to be queuing at the door to see us and we want to do everything perfectly. It soon struck me that in reality this is so much harder to achieve than I thought.

I had the small advantage of working in general practice in other roles for the past six years, so many of the policies, computer software and workings of a GDP were familiar to me. This helped me hugely as it wasn’t all completely alien to me. There is so much I want to talk about, but today, I’ll give a brief outline of how my first few weeks have gone.

Firstly, the issue of time. I appreciate that we as foundation dentists are still relatively sheltered, however the shock to the system of real time pressures has been hard. In comparison to my colleagues, I have been pushed a little harder with my times. Although I have managed my time well so far (it’s still early days!), seeing that little stick man waiting for me in the corner of my computer is stressful! I’ve learnt it’s about being efficient with time, asking as much of the patient’s history as possible whilst washing my hands, giving oral hygiene, diet and alcohol advice, and smoking cessation while radiographs are being processed. However, I still wonder when my time is cut further, how on earth it is humanly possible to be as thorough as I am being now?

Secondly, the patients. Dental student life was very sheltered. Our patients went through screening programmes before actually sitting in our dental chair – they were deemed ‘appropriate’ for students. They were all (pretty much) very friendly, very patient and absolutely loved coming to see us. Of course, I knew the reality would be very different, but I never thought I would have to really try hard to get patients to like me. I always found communication, empathy and building relationships with people and patients a strength of mine – working as a general dentist has made this harder as the ‘you’re a scary dentist’ is an immediate barrier.

Thirdly, the responsibility. Not taking the job home has been the hardest thing for me. Questioning every decision, critiquing every single piece of treatment I do, lying in bed at night and thinking – did I do this right, did I miss that? It isn’t healthy and will hopefully be something I can overcome with time. However, with a world of dentistry where we are constantly bombarded with horror stories of litigation and GDC cases, its hard not to worry, especially while I’m so new and inexperienced.

Despite everything, I am enjoying the challenge each day brings and am looking forward to my future as a dentist, wherever that takes me.

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