Think hospital dentistry isn’t for you? Think again…
You’ve all heard the stories of what it’s like to be a hospital dentist, long hours, working weekends, being on call, dealing with different and complex cases. But there are reasons why you might want to consider doing it, here’s my view on why you might take up the challenge of working as a hospital dentist.
Why do dental core training?
The question has been put to me on many occasions, mainly by non-dentists, why after two years of dental core training (DCT), I continue putting myself through week long night shifts, weekends and 12-hour long on-calls?
Quite simply, DCT has provided me with the opportunity to gain experience and progress towards speciality training in oral surgery, the field I have always wanted to work in. Indeed, this is a common reason for dentists to take up DCT posts.
Others will do it because they are unsure quite what they want to do and the various DCT posts which are available can give exposure to different specialties and help them decide and provide them with skills that they can take with them in any career.
From my experience, DCT posts provide excellent opportunities to greatly increase knowledge and be tested in challenging situations whilst learning under the direct supervision of senior colleagues; making the constant threat of litigation feel a little less present.
You operate in an environment where you can ask questions, take your time, try new techniques and step out of your comfort zone in a much more supportive and protected setting than that which associate general dentistry provides.
Will my skills be transferable?
Many of the trainees who drop out of DCT after a year and return to general dental practice, will end up working under a NHS dental contract that provides no incentive to utilise the treatment skills that DCT has equipped them with.
Common problems might be a lack of equipment, a practice owner who advises things like “oral surgery isn’t a practice builder”, and the risk of complaints or litigation if your complex treatments go wrong. This means many past trainees might choose to just refer difficult cases, leaving current young dentists asking then, “Why bother with DCT?”, and feel their skills will not be transferable.
It is a real fear, that I think that many young dentists, other than those who seek specialist training, will not see the value in undertaking DCT posts.
This means they will fail to develop invaluable knowledge and skills, which they would have carried with them throughout their working life, be it in primary or secondary care. In fact, a career in secondary care might be being dismissed completely.
Unless the situation changes the vicious cycle will continue; GDPs choosing not to attempt any form of complex treatment and the burden on secondary care waiting lists will continue to grow. This will be a problem for both our profession and for patients.
There are many experienced dentists who will regularly carry out oral surgery or complex restorative work on the NHS, in spite of the poor remuneration, because they feel there is a moral obligation to do so.
It seems they are likely to be being replaced though, by a new generation of dentists who have never acquired the competence or the confidence to perform these treatments.
Can you rise to the challenge?
Whilst it is admittedly an imperfect beast, secondary care dentistry provides an absolutely essential service to patients, primary care colleagues and young trainees alike. Are you ready to rise to the challenge? Any sacrifice you may feel that you are making will be short-lived, but the benefits long-lasting.
DCT may allow you to develop an interest to work within a speciality that you didn’t know about or stimulate growth and improved confidence in your field of interest.
You will develop skills and knowledge that you will take with you for the rest of your career and benefit you patients, profession and personal development.
Robbie Williams, Specialty Dentist in Oral Surgery & Clinical Fellow in Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery
Help us be the voice of the profession
At the 2016 British Dental Conference and Exhibition, you told us that the voice of hospital dentists was not getting heard enough, so we are offering you a chance to discuss your views and share your experience.
We’d love to hear your thoughts: please give feedback on our articles by tweeting @TheBDA, using the hashtag #youngdentists – if you’d like to write an article for our next e-newsletter, please email us.