Preparing for clinic is a very important part of being an undergraduate dental student.
As dental students, we are one of few courses to begin our careers serving the community as undergraduates; examining, diagnosing and treating real people from the very get go. Your learning on clinic at dental school provides you with the skills and experience for your qualification, so you feel more confident and at ease when you settle into your first paid job.
Depending on your University, your first patient will be under a different discipline, be it Complete Dentures, Extractions, Restorative, Periodontology or anything else you must prepare yourself adequately for these sessions.
Obvious starting points when preparing for clinic would be to go over lecture notes and reading of the particular clinic you are attending, it will be important to know speciality specifics, for example, a BPE of 3 or more warrants 6 point charting in that particular sextant for periodontology, of course you will need to know how BPE and 6 point charting works!
Memorise steps of procedures that you are likely to undertake, for example in denture clinics, primary impressions will most likely feature in the first appointment. If you are on restorative department, know how to chart teeth and how to take a pain history.
Nothing you learn for these clinics will go to waste, they may not come up in this clinic, but you know for sure it will be in the next, or the one after that. Learn as much as you can from each clinic and it will gradually accumulate as time goes by.
Before you go into the dental school, familiarise yourself with the Medical History form, this will be the very first set of questions you ask your patient as it is paramount to have an up to date and accurate medical history. As this is so important and will come first, it will be settling to have something familiar in your hands and will also help the patient ease into the chair. The patient may be more anxious than you and it will help both of you that 1) you display confidence in your questioning, and 2) the patient develops confidence in you. Take a medical history from a flatmate as practise so it is not your first time in front of a patient.
Here’s a little tip with the medical history in mind. Do not worry if your patient comes in with a 3 page pre-printed list of 20 medications they are currently being prescribed. Tutors will not expect you to know every drug name under the sun, but the least they will ask for is that you know to reach for the BNF at the first instance when you are unsure, so find out where it is before you start!
Be confident, (Or at least act it). For every one of us, the very first clinic will be a very daunting experience. No matter how much work experience you have done and how much you have read up on your subject, it will be the first time you are in the hot-seat, with a patient expecting treatment. Hide the scared facial expressions and act confident! Again, if you act in control and confident, your patient will have confidence in you and everything will be 100x easier.
Ask Questions, remember your tutors are there to help you progress. They will understand
how nerve-racking the first clinic can be and apart from expect a solid base of knowledge, they will also appreciate that your practical skills are still being developed and will be more than happy to take questions and to help you.
Be pro-active! Don’t be afraid to volunteer to take on the first patient, if anything you are allowed more leighway for error if you are the first to take a history, and you will learn alot from the experience. The best way to learn is by doing, you can watch and read about how to play tennis as much as you like, but until you pick up a racket and hit the ball over the net you will never actually be able to play.
Above all, enjoy yourself. Clinics are a fantastic learning vehicle, and for this writer, the favourite aspect of the course.