Working as a supervisor at the Exeter Dental Education facility by Carys Lock
Working as a supervisor at the Exeter Dental Education facility as part of Peninsula Medical and Dental school is such an interesting way to spend my Fridays, and a brilliant way to connect with the next generation of dentists. I oversee the third-year dental students as they embark on more complex treatments and undergo a series of capability assessments on their patients.
Guiding Future Dentists
This is a formative year in their dental education – they branch out from mostly being in the skills lab and lectures to really getting a feel for how the profession works on a busy clinic. They are only expected to see a handful of patients per day, but the level of knowledge and skill they now must demonstrate is great. We ask them to go through each patient with us before they get them into the clinic and then ask for a thorough case presentation. They need their work checked at various stages throughout the procedure, and reflection and grading are done once the patient has left.
A Real-World Dental Education
The dental course taught at Peninsula is led on the clinics mostly by your ‘everyday’ dentist like me. We can bring our wide-ranging experience and skill set to the students and help them understand the reality of being a clinician in today’s environment. There is a mixture of supervisors in this role, some who are coming to the end of their dental career and wish to pass on as much wisdom as they can before they hang up their gloves, and some, who like me, are looking for variety in their working week and enjoy the challenges that supervising less experienced colleagues brings.
Mentoring and Supporting
The third years have the knowledge but lack the confidence in their decision making and clinical execution, so we are there to fully support and guide them through each element of the treatment required. Whether this be taking time at the end of the session to analyze a complex medical history of a patient or jumping in to help remove a particularly tricky tooth!
Reflecting on My Mentors
I remember fondly many of my supervisors from university. I trained in Cardiff where we had a big dental hospital that was divided up into separate departments. A very different environment to the Peninsula Dental Social Enterprise where it’s much more like general practice, where different patients are having a multitude of different treatments on the same clinics – you need to get your head around multiple treatment plans going on at once as a supervisor!
In Cardiff, I remember the ‘old school’ supervisors who were straight talking, no messing, excellent general dentists, and I have taken nuggets of their wisdom with me throughout my career. I even got my first job with one of them and was so grateful to have this continuity of a learning relationship as I began my life as a qualified dentist. The scarier Professors who were experts in their field had excellent knowledge but weren’t very approachable, we dreaded being supervised by them and being quizzed on complex academic details!
Nurturing Future Dentists
Hopefully, I can influence the students in a positive way. It doesn’t feel all that long ago that I was in their shoes, but I now fully understand just how much learning they have still to do and will continuously be doing in this profession. New research is always emerging, patient’s needs are forever changing, and new technologies, materials, and techniques are released. Maybe one day I’ll be working alongside somebody I’ve supervised, continuing the cycle of nurturing a caring, knowledgeable, and competent dental team who have a passion for their patients and their work.