Having recently finished a Dental Core Training (DCT) post at King's College Dental Hospital in general duties, I thought it would be a good chance to share my ideas of how to make the most of an amazing year.
Those who have recently started DCT jobs will already have spent some months in the role, and I hope you are settling in. My year went by in the blink of an eye, and I felt I could have achieved more had I known all the opportunities that working in a hospital offered me.
To help those in DCT jobs at the moment, here is my advice on how to make the most of a fantastic opportunity.
As you undertake a DCT job in hospital, the amount of paperwork increases. For example, patients might require blood tests and biopsies, and you become responsible for organising these and liaising with colleagues so that the correct treatment is given at the right time.
This can be stressful and when you are managing several patients I advise you keep a diary to help keep track of things. This is especially relevant if you are involved with new patient clinics where referral letters need to be written, which can start building up if you let them.
2. Get stuck in!
When participating in new patient clinics or any observational clinics, never be afraid to ask your colleagues or consultant if you can have a go at either examining or treating the patient.
The only way you learn is by doing and if you feel up to the task this is a great opportunity. I found several cases on new patient clinics that I really wanted to do, and learnt a lot by doing them. During my year I had some interesting cases that I have been able to use to help build my portfolio, as well as writing up as case reports so that I can try to get them published.
If you get a chance, try to get involved in research that may be happening at the unit you are working in. The registrars and consultants may have interests in a certain field and will often be more than happy for you to undertake projects with them.
This is a great way to get involved with the team, and also useful if you are looking to get published. Not only will it look great on a CV but it will also benefit you if you're thinking of applying for specialty training in the future.
As part of your year it is essential to do an audit. Audits help improve the service provided by a hospital or unit and are part of clinical governance. An audit that has two cycles - where a first cycle has been carried out, has had change implemented and then been done again to show the change is of substantial benefit - is ideal.
A new development in this area is to do quality improvement projects (QUIP) and these relate to patient centred outcomes, a subject that is currently topical and something worth getting involved in.
Some DCT posts allow you to tutor students as part of your role. This can be good to get involved in as it lets you build on your teaching skills. I found this quite challenging at first as I was being asked questions I didn't know the answer to, but this can also give an insight into gaps in your knowledge. Teaching experience is something employers have started to look for and you will find if you apply for any further hospital jobs there will be a question asking whether you have any.
6. Personal development plan
It is important to construct a plan with your educational supervisor. This allows aims and objectives to be made at the start of the year, and this is a good time to ask about or suggest things that you want to do and gain exposure in. At the end of the day, this is why you have decided to undertake a training post so don't waste the opportunity you have been given.
7. Keep a logbook
Having a logbook of clinical cases you carried out and observed is quite handy for when you go to apply for future jobs, whether in hospital or practice. It can help show what you have accomplished and may help set you apart from the competition as it demonstrates initiative and the amount of experience you gained in your career to date.
If you need an example, the Society for the Advancement of Anaesthesia in Dentistry has a sample logbook on their website, which could serve as a good template on which to base your own.
At the end of the day, this is why you have decided to undertake a training post so don't waste the opportunity you have been given.
8. Never be afraid to ask for help
Referrals received in hospital can be challenging at the best of times. This applies to any specialty of dentistry and it is important to know when you feel out of your depth. We must remember that we are in training posts and if you aren't sure about how to do something then there will always be someone around who can assist.
I used to look at my diary to see what cases I had coming and discuss these with colleagues if I was unsure of any aspects prior to the appointment, as well as checking if the consultant who treatment planned the case was around on the day of the appointment.
9. Engage in journal clubs
If you have the chance to be a part of a journal club then try to attend. These clubs are useful as papers and interesting clinical cases can be discussed amongst colleagues. It is usual to find a registrar or consultant leading them and they can help you build on your clinical knowledge. It can also be a chance to present a paper you have read to the team and actively critique it, which is a skill worth developing.
10. Finally…enjoy your year!
Working in a hospital allows you to be part of a large team, and it is important to build new relationships with colleagues and have fun. Having socials after work allows you to enjoy life outside dentistry as well as see the other side to your colleagues.