Hey! My name is Seun, and I am a fourth year student studying Dentistry at the University of Plymouth. I would like to share how my work placement has helped me get ahead, so stay tuned!
Work Placement Structure
Right from the start, the course is structured around practical experience, and work placements are integrated into the timetable from year one. These placements involve seeing patients during weekly clinical appointments at the Dental Education Facility (DEF). There are multiple DEFs located in the South West – Derriford, Devonport, Exeter and Truro – which means that we are provided with a unique opportunity to build our clinical skills across various locations.
As a fourth year student, I have been attending clinic sessions twice per week throughout the course (with the exception of once per week during my first year). These sessions involve being paired with a partner and working with them throughout a clinical appointment to complete an examination and provide treatment to individuals under the guidance of a dental practitioner. I have found this interface to be useful, as it mirrors how a qualified dentist and dental nurse would work together in practice.
Undertaking clinical experience was a surreal experience at first; however, this feeling soon subsided. In comparison to the dental work experience I had undertaken prior to beginning the course, which involved shadowing a dentist, it was a surprise to encounter struggles with time management in my clinic appointments. Also, carrying out clinical procedures on a patient in contrast to a dental mannequin in the university’s Simulated Dental Learning Environment (SDLE) presented both social and tactile differences. Being in a new environment where I’m assuming the role of a dentist and interacting with the young and elderly seemed a big responsibility to take on, although it is one that I have settled into and find to be fulfilling.
Having the opportunity to treat patients on a regular basis has allowed me to apply my clinical skills in a realistic setting and really improve my manual dexterity over time. In comparison to working in a dental practice, clinical appointments are also longer which means that we are able to build a friendly rapport with patients and help them to feel comfortable within the dental environment.
Overall, I have enjoyed my dental clinical experience. It will be of great benefit to my chosen career path in terms of developing my communication skills with the dental team and public. I believe that I have grown in confidence when interacting with my patients, and this has helped make the experience a positive one. There have been occasions where certain situations were stressful and difficult to overcome, but these have only served to develop my resilience.
One thing that I appreciate about my professional experiences is having learned how to manage when things may not go to plan, and being open to adjustment. It is always fulfilling to see the end result once a course of treatment is completed, and the positive impact that dental treatment may have on a patient’s physical, social and psychological wellbeing.
The placements have also helped with my academic development. Being able to apply what I have learned has improved my understanding of clinical procedures. Additionally, the clinical knowledge that I have gained has helped broaden my academic knowledge in regard to different aspects of patient care.
Work experience has been an important aspect of my university life because it is of high relevance to my career path after university. I feel that it has been a great opportunity to gain hands-on experience, and observe a different aspect of the course. It’s been encouraging to observe my growth along the way.