Today, ever-increasing numbers of dental graduates are entering a profession in the UK defined by a chronic shortage of practice placements. As a result, any further qualifications added to the BDS are now becoming more than just desirable requirements in the first steps of progression in dental careers being determined more by competition and perhaps less so by competence. Within such a climate anything you can do to get ahead of the pack will help your chances of both gaining and maintaining a lead in a profession where it is often said, the only thing worse than finding out your best friend from dental school has died, is finding out they did better than you.
After several years of bimbling around from one general dental practice job to another, I accidentally happened upon the MJDF at a dental conference. This was the type of dental conference where you aimlessly wander from stand to stand while toothpaste, toothbrushes and telephone numbers are thrust at you. Having never heard of the MJDF before or given the notion of postgraduate qualifications anything more than a second thought, someone passed me a flyer for an MJDF revision course, which I stuffed in my pocket and promptly forgot about. Then for some bizarre reason, after a few more weeks of sleep walking through my non-career, I woke up one morning to find myself in the grip of an obsession. An obsession, which after not looking at a textbook for over fifteen years, seemed to take control of my life for the next two years while I went from zero study to passing both the MFDS, the MJDF and gaining a post graduate certificate for the FGDP Portfolio in general dental practice.
After this dental conference, things were not the same, instead of toothpaste, toothbrushes and telephone numbers, it was now: textbooks, technical manuals and taught courses I was acquiring with increasing eagerness.
I think on looking back now, this career development, might have had something to do with an increasing sense of dissatisfaction and frustration at work. Increasing numbers of faceless non-accountable non-trained and non-registered managers seemed to be parasitizing dentistry with their meaningless bureaucracy. My only way out seemed to be getting down to study and not so much getting ahead of my colleagues, but getting away from everything that seemed to be going wrong in the profession.
Both MFDS and MJDF seemed to offer an escape and this was perhaps the main reason to get down studying after so many years.
Although both exams carry the same weight, postgraduate tutors and the COPDEND Gold Book (2013) suggest these exams in one sense mark a completion of the 2 Year Foundation, VT or GPT stage of your career, despite this, the Part 2 of these exams are actually quite different affairs. Whereas the MJDF has a strong focus on technical skills, the MFDS has non-technical or communication skills at its core. I do not think that one exam can exist without the other and a well-rounded dental graduate has to consider that building a successful career has to have a solid foundation of both technical and non-technical skills in equal measures.
When discussing the MJDF with college tutors in Edinburgh, one told me quite clearly that medical emergency OSCE’s didn’t belong in the MFDS syllabus as it was almost impossible to either accurately or appropriately simulate medical emergencies in an exam and therefore they would not, for the foreseeable future be examined in the MFDS. That is interesting, in the MJDF if you do badly in a medical emergency OSCE: to quote one professor: “If you fail a medical emergency OSCE, you have to do stellar in the other questions to pass the exam.”
So you either learn medical emergencies inside out and back to front for the MJDF or leave them alone and go sit the MFDS. As for real life, medical emergencies occur on average every three to four months in every dental practice. As for communication skills; well, I remember a Dental Protection seminar where it was revealed the biggest cause of problems in dental practice, wasn’t technical failure, but rather poor communication that led to patient dissatisfaction, serious complaints and finally; a trip to 37 Wimpole Street.
I think the two diametrically opposite views, while being useful for anyone preparing for either exam (as these opinions will undoubtedly help you to focus on the areas that need to be studied for the exams you decide to take); are about as useful as a chocolate teapot in real life.
Almost lastly, two interesting things I have seen, are candidates for the MFDS holding on to textbooks like comfort blankets for some last minute revision (of medical emergencies!) and MJDF candidates trying to brush up on communication skills. Whatever else you do, if you are sitting MFDS, then go to an MFDS revision course and the same applies for the MJDF. I have found the revision courses to be highly exam specific.
Lastly, there are so many good textbooks out there to choose from and from experience you cannot ever have too many. Every author will offer his or her own perspective. As I enjoyed the whole study and MJDF/MFDS exam experience, so much I decided to write my own textbook: “Clinical Problems in Dentistry” At 769 pages covering 50 OSCEs and SCRs, there should be enough information to help an exam candidate to pass these exams.