Katie Huane, fifth year BDS Student, University of Manchester, passes on her top tips for making the most of your time during self-isolation and keeping up with your peers.

In the run-up to the lockdown 2.0, my biggest worry was gym closures meaning I’d be back to jumping around doing HIIT workouts in my front room with my heaviest dumbbell weighing a measly 1.5kg. Little did I know I would be stuck in my house for the next 12 days, unable to go for walks outdoors, get a take-away Pret hot chocolate and worst of all, miss critical clinical time at the Dental Hospital. 

When I first got the notification from the NHS Track and Trace app, I was stunned. I racked my brain tirelessly to understand how and where I could’ve contacted someone with Coronavirus. Still to this day, I have no idea.  

In the coming week, I had planned an acrylic denture delivery, a crown fit, an oral surgery clinical skills session (practising raising flaps on pig heads!) and my DFT Situational Judgement Exam – a heavy week to say the least. 

I was initially frustrated at the prospect of missing all of these things and was worried about what it would mean for my progression as a dental student – getting sufficient patient contact on clinics is always a concern, especially as patients fear the hospital in the current climate. 

Having contacted the dental school regarding my isolation, I had to tackle the next task of how to sit my SJT exam from home (which would otherwise be sat at a Pearson Vue test centre). I had to fill out a reasonable adjustment form and hope for the best. 

Luckily I had two days until I was due to sit the exam. This exam was set to determine my rank out of all the graduating dentists in the UK and hence the place I would live and practice for my Dental Foundation Training for a whole year. It could be on my doorstep (Manchester) or it could be as far as the Isle of Man (no pressure). 

After a string of emails to and from the test centre, a software issue, a borrowed laptop and a full bookcase covered in plain-white bed sheets, I sat my 2.15pm SJT exam from home. 

It’s a long wait until we get the results (June 2021), so in the meantime I will be focusing on other aspects of Dental School, my fitness and most importantly…Christmas! 

Below I have outlined some tips for other dental students struggling with self-isolation and how to have a productive fortnight indoors. 

Top tips for self-isolation

1.    Mindset is key 

Overall, lockdown has been smooth-sailing for me and I believe I owe it to my positive attitude. Some things I told myself repeatedly were:  

•    You’ll be drilling and filling for the rest of your life – don’t panic over a couple of clinic sessions missed. 
•    These things happen for a reason, whether it’s to rest and recover or that you didn’t do enough baking and DIY in the first lockdown.
•    2 weeks off Uni doesn’t mean you won’t graduate!
•    You’ll look back at this period of your life when you are working a full time job and wish you made the most of the chance to stay in bed on frosty mornings!

2.    Keep yourself busy 

Some things that have kept me occupied include: 

•    Webinars (some of my top picks are the Dentinal Tubules Webinar series for dental students, Dentinet Student webinars, and Finlay Sutton’s denture series on YouTube). 
•    Writing/getting published – this is just one way you can enhance their professional profile as a dental student and pass some time during your isolation period.
•    Entering undergraduate essay competitions. 
•    Practice your manual dexterity in other ways – painting, carving teeth made from wax, etc. 
•    Catch up on lectures. 
•    Keep up-to-date with important documents on COVID-19 in dentistry to keep yourself and others safe. 

3.    Avoid social media 

FOMO = Fear Of Missing Out. Throughout my isolation period, I’ve consciously put my phone away which not only makes me much more productive, but it also makes me feel 100x better for doing it too. You gain NOTHING from seeing your dental school peers on clinic treating patients and doing all the things you should be doing. Easier said than done but make sure you are limiting time spent on Instagram, Facebook and all other social media platforms. 

4.    Get moving 

Nothing sets me up for a more productive day than a workout at 8am and quick stretch after. Not only does it boost my mood but getting out of your desk chair does wonders for your back! 

5.    Routine 

Keeping a consistent morning and bedtime routine is key. Wake up, workout and eat breakfast all before you turn your phone on in the morning. Get in bed nice and early that evening, read a book and sleep. Repeat. 

Normality feels like a distant memory but I can’t wait to get back to the dental school to see some familiar faces, both patients and peers…5 days and counting!

Author bio

I’m currently a final year dental student at the University of Manchester. Over the past couple of years at dental school, I have discovered a particular interest in Paediatrics and Oral Surgery. I am also President of the Dentman Global Oral Health Forum, a volunteering society committed to providing oral care globally as well as within the local community. 

Outside of dentistry, I love experiencing new cultures and have an Instagram page dedicated to travel as well as university life (@flightsandfillings). I was lucky enough to spend two consecutive summers in New York working on a children’s summer camp as a swimming teacher. 

I’m also into fitness, and if I’m not in the dental hospital, you can probably find me in the gym!

Katie Huane