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Keeping a sense of perspective-Life as a Foundation Dentist

26 June 2015

Keeping a sense of perspective-Life as a Foundation Dentist

Five Things for June in Dental Foundation Training

  1. Sometimes, it is necessary to remember why you actually started this job in the first place
  2. Family are important, both your work family and your own
  3. Work/life balance, however cliché, is essential to be able to sleep at night
  4. Some patients will stick in your head, but this is not always a bad thing
  5. There will always, always be things that do not go to plan (and usually in a bad way!)

Another month gone, and another month closer to September, which now comes with hospital changeover. Although I have not had to find myself a new job for Sept, I will be changing hospitals and health boards and doing slightly different things. Sometimes, I think (along with a lot of other people) I can be accused of focussing a little too much on the future and not actually paying as much attention to the present. Now I do not believe this is always a bad thing, with an increasing competitive world out there, you do need to pay attention to the skills and experience you are getting to ensure you are not being left behind and will actually have a job in the future!

Equally you do need to be able to take a small step back sometimes and remember why you actually started the job in the first place. You know the days when you never seem to be able to do anything right and you just seem to be told off by everyone (and being a junior member of staff, it basically does mean everyone and anyone), I’ve had those days. Equally, there are days when you feel you’re stagnating and aren’t learning anything new and I almost think those are the scariest days. At least if you’re being told off, you’re trying, but if you’re not learning anything, then why are you going to work? I had one of those days recently and it took me a while to work out what I was feeling (!) and it worried me, but after a chat to my family, it made me push myself a little bit more when I went back to work the next day. It forced me to remember all the reasons I do actually love my job, and yes, sometimes I need a bit of a push, and why I want to continue going to work.

Your work family is an important aspect of this. Apart from the fact that you probably see them more than your actually family, they are a big part of why you want to go to work in the morning. Now, I know I am incredibly lucky and I love working with my colleagues, in hospital and in practice. Often, they are the ones that cheer me up and make me laugh when something hasn’t gone quite right, and they are definitely the ones I turn to for advice about everything – work, career and sometimes your personal life gets mixed up too! I don’t really see this as a bad thing though, you always (as I was recently told on a study day) have to be careful about who you allow to influence you, particularly with something as important as your career. I know I’m fortunate as I have a couple of senior clinicians that I know I can go to for advice and I trust them – and so far I haven’t been led wrong.

However, there will always be a time when things go wrong, and, for me, if things go wrong they tend to go completely wrong! The two patients I remember most vividly the times it went wrong in the worst way (no one died, I promise!). I was doing an onlay on a lower molar and I was so proud of myself as it was the first one I had completed. The prep went really well, not nearly as bad as I thought it was going to be, and I got everything done – prep, temporary and impressions – all in one appointment. The next time I saw them, the temporary was still in place and everything seemed to fit quite well with a little bit of adjustment, so I thought that I’d just check the occlusion carefully before cementing everything in place….and CRUNCH! Straight through my beautiful onlay! I was so disappointed, and also a little annoyed at myself. Thankfully the patient was very good about it, as they could tell that something had gone wrong. With the help of my senior clinician I was able to find out why the problem had happened, and it certainly means I check my preps now for good occlusal clearance – a perfect Personal Development Plan learning point!

The other patient I remember is when I was doing a try-in for an acrylic upper partial denture and I thought it was all going to plan. The patient bit together and was propped open so I adjusted the wax, and could see it was getting a bit thin, but tried it in again, as I would normally. Then the front teeth on the denture started falling off and I started to get that sinking feeling, when things have gone really, really wrong. Basically the occlusion was so tight anteriorly as the patient overclosed and had vertical tooth surface loss, there wasn’t any space to get a denture base plate in to replace the teeth that the patient wanted. Then, I had a proper look at the occlusion again and realised there was no space for anything, so had to come up with a complicated treatment plan, that I wasn’t even sure the patient wanted to give myself enough space to get the denture in, which was the whole point of him coming to see me in the first place!

I find it very frustrating when things like that happen, not at the patients of course, but at myself, and I’m always trying to find out the reason why things went wrong, so I don’t do it again to someone else. This is where your work family comes in for support and reassurance, and to remind you that work isn’t the be all and end of everything. 

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