Aavan K Matharu, fourth year BDS student, Trinity College Dublin, gives her key pointers for a smooth transition to your clinical study years.
The transition from pre-clinical years to clinical years is one that many dental students look forward to. It becomes a momentous occasion where we can apply all the theory and practical skills, we have learned from the mannequin lab to actual patients and clinical situations. However, this overwhelming realization comes with its demands and challenges. As I reflect on my own experience, there is no doubt that I have learned a great deal not only about myself and how to make my clinical experience fulfilling but also how to tackle these challenges.
To help you achieve a smooth transition, here are a few pointers I have put together to tackle the clinical years to come.
Bracing the Clinical Experience:
1.Dive deep: As we start clinics, it is normal to experience nerves and opt for simpler procedures. However, delving deeper and putting yourself in clinical scenarios within limitations, which test your knowledge, confidence, and clinical skills, are critical to your development early on as a student. It is important to encourage your learning and try to make the most of dental school while you are there as clinical time is already so limited due to the pandemic.
2. The Plus 2 Rule: Attempt to do procedures at least twice or more during your clinical years. Chances are that when you do a procedure for the first time, you will make mistakes and learn a lot from it. However, when you do the same procedure, for a second time on a different patient, you will be faced with other challenges and essentially a different way to apply your knowledge. Although this can be challenging depending on the amount of time you are given for clinics, try your level best to achieve this as it will teach you resilience and problem solving earlier on.
- Know the why to a procedure: When creating a treatment plan/preparing for a procedure such as a composite filling or root canal, it is critical to know WHY you are doing it. Understanding the importance and order of what you are doing creates confidence and allows you to reflect on the benefits/risks of the procedure as well as the ethical reasoning behind what you are doing for the patient.
- Ask a friend lifeline: Discussing topics with friends/upper years beforehand can be very helpful. See what your friends have done, what their process was in doing the procedure, stressful parts, etc. Discuss how they communicated with patients, common mistakes, and how they organized themselves to get a better understanding of what to expect and how you can learn from their experiences to ameliorate your own.
- Keeping an orderly fashion: One of the most helpful things I learned was to organize my instruments in the order I was going to use them. This can really help in stressful times when you don’t want to be looking around for instruments and materials but are rather using them as you go along.
- Stick to the essentials: It is important to understand which instruments can be filtered out during a procedure. During a composite filling, for example, there is no need to have the entire operative kit laid out. Instead, narrow down the essential instruments to items such as a mirror, contra-angle sickle probe, flat plastic, and micro brushes, etc. This will create more space on your bracket table and will reduce the overwhelming feeling when looking for instruments.
I hope these tips/tricks are useful to you during your exciting progression into clinical years. Remember to embrace your transition kindly and to focus on yourself as a growing clinician. All the best!
“I am a fourth-year dental student presently attending Trinity College Dublin. Over the past three years, I have developed a keen interest in Endodontics and Restorative Dentistry. With one year of dental school remaining, I would love to be able to expand my knowledge in regards to what these fields offer by performing research with specialists and attending relevant conferences.
Apart from dentistry, I enjoy drawing/sketching and immersing myself in astronomy and cosmology. I also adore traveling and visiting multiple countries within four different continents has given me the opportunity to appreciate new cultures, food, and languages.”
Aavan K Matharu
This student advice blog was originally published by FGDP(UK) in August 2020 and updated in May 2021, and has been republished by the College of General Dentistry with the author’s permission.