Tips for Starting Clinic (1)

You survived the first two years of dental school! Congrats! Transitioning from the didactic portion of your education to clinic can be both exciting and a little nerve-racking! Your time in clinic will fly by, so you must be strategic in how you manage your clinic time! For the next two blog posts, I will feature interviews of rock-star colleagues, who are rising D4’s. They will share their advice on how to succeed as you transition to clinic. This is Part 1 of “Tips for Starting Clinic.” Be sure to check out Part 2 here!

My first interview is with Dan. Dan and I immediately hit it off because we are both career changers from California. Dan is a real rock-star, balancing both the rigors of dental school and being a new dad!

1. What general advice do you have for rising D3’s as they begin clinic?

Come prepared to work; clinic is why you are here! Forget grades. No, really, let them go. There are too many variables that are now out of your control. This will be the hardest thing to follow…I myself did not follow this advice when it was given to me. Also, attack your comps. Don’t wait! Things happen that will stop you: COVID, family deaths, having babies, falling ill, financial turmoil – all of these happened to me my D3 year (no joke; it was my personal hell)! My only saving grace that has kept me on track is that I did each and every comp that came around. Don’t hesitate – just do it. 

2. What was the hardest thing about starting clinic and how did you overcome it?

Accepting that things will never be “fair.” That, and learning to truly not care about the rumor mill. Overcome it? One day, I just stopped giving a damn because I had way too much going on. Finally, I said to myself, “OK, what else do I need to do to graduate from this place?!” 

3. How can a D3 build up their patient base/rolodex?

Get rid of bad patients that don’t want to be seen at the school (clear your Rolodex, basically). Then, realize that every person you meet is a potential patient. Also realize that patients have family. Treat them right, and they will bring their family to you. Also, never ever skip screening!

4. What can a D3 do if he/she has down time (e.g., no patient scheduled, patient no-show)?

Go to oral surgery or ortho clinic to fulfill requirements. Check endo and perio to see if they need assists. You have a ton of other assist requirements that will sneak up on you and ruin your semester. 

5. What procedures should a D3 focus on?

 Operative primarily, perio secondary, remo if it comes along. Forget fixed, the D4s will raid your Rolodex to get their requirements done! 

6. What can a D3 do to set themselves apart from their classmates in clinic?

  • Come prepared – set up your station early, know the steps, know what to do when something goes wrong.
  • Come motivated – show up to every session; rest when you graduate. 
  • Be super respectful. Use Sir, Ma’am, Dr. continuously; never get lazy about this, as faculty are much older than you and come from a different generation. 
  • You may have a director who just doesn’t like you – it happens. Continue to work with this person. Do not shy away from them. 
  • Learn to read your GP directors: if they are having a bad day, you are about to as well! 
  • Don’t just read off the medical history. So often I see people do this and it just pisses off your directors. It shows that you don’t know what’s going on. Make a decision on what you need to brief. 
  • Know emergency criteria, when to get the nurse, and know the emergency protocols. YOU WILL NEED THEM. None of my patients have ever collapsed, but I have stepped in to take over 4 situations where students froze and didn’t know what to do. [NOTE: Ready my post on Managing Clinical Emergencies!]
  • Take pride in your work. Polish those mounted casts. Keep your articulator clean. Actually festoon and try to make your dentures pretty even though you will surely adjust them. Pride and care goes a long way with the attendings. 
  • Be careful! A sports injury or clumsy/drunken fall can set you back in school or potentially ruin your future career. [NOTE: Read my post on Disability Insurance (coming soon)!] 🤕

I hope you enjoyed my interview with Dan. He has some great pearls of wisdom! Be sure to check out my Next Post, in which I interview rising D4, Janet!

Do you have any tips for starting clinic? Comment below!


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