So you’ve completed your first two years of dental school and haven’t had a patient of your own to practice on.
Well that’s about to change!
Within the first month of starting 3rd year we were all assigned patients.
Yes, our very own patients, the moment we’ve all been waiting for. All the training and simulated tutorials were now going to be put to the test.
All along it’s been plastic models in which if an error was made you could’ve simply started over, there was no real concern about the patient’s tongue, soft tissues or their general comfort.
Even though, I’m a 3rd year now I still feel very junior when compared with my 4th and 5th year colleagues. It was as though, I’m starting a new course altogether.
Everything was new, learning how to use the dental chair, where instruments were kept, how they were cleaned and sterilized, what paperwork needs to be filled out, how to book new patients in and arrange for a follow up visit.
Who knew navigating the clinical dispensary was such a chore!
THANKFULLY, you’re not alone!
Everyone operates in pairs within the class and your clinical partner acts as your dental nurse whenever you’re the treating student and then the roles are swapped around, so there’s always someone with you helping you out as you go along. There are also numerous clinical supervisors and nurses around to assist in even the smallest of issues.
I got hold of my patient’s file the day before I was seeing him, so I could have an idea of what treatment was previously done and what duties I needed to undertake.
The patient was coming in for a 6 months review in which I had to assess his progress from his last visit. Because it was the first time I was seeing him, I had to perform a full patient exam involving patient history, extra oral and intra oral exams, charting and a few radiographs.
Armed with the knowledge of his previous treatment and what I was going to do helped to calm any nerves because I was able to prepare myself as much as I could before going into clinics.
So the day finally arrived when I was going to see my first patient, I got up to the Conservation Clinic early to set up my unit and prepare myself for the task ahead. My clinical partner joined me shortly after to assist with the preparations of the unit and to get the associated paperwork that needed to be filled out.
Soon after my patient arrived and I began the assessment, admittedly, I was slightly nervous for the first few questions but as time went on, I began to feel more comfortable in what I was doing and why I was doing it.
So after the patient assessment was done, patient’s notes updated and logbooks signed off, I sat in my unit for a few minutes just thinking of how the session went and what could have been done to improve it.
All along we were taught the different skills that encompasses a patient assessment – history taking, extra oral and intra oral exams, charting, special investigations but we were never really taught how to link them together so that it flows smoothly. I think that this is where all the treating students began to add a bit of their own personality to the assessment; in how they communicated and developed rapport with their patient.
It is also in these small gaps that you begin to get to know and develop a professional relationship with your patient, which I think is essential for patient satisfaction.
All in all, my very first patient assessment was a great learning experience and I look forward to many exciting challenges that lie ahead.