Long time no see! A lot has changed since my last post in the new year, the biggest thing being I’ve just completed 6 weeks on Outreach which is placement at a dental practice outside of the dental school. Exciting stuff! Normally we see all of our patients in the dental hospital but in 4th and 5th year, we get sent out for more ‘real world’ experience. I think other dental schools have something similar to ‘Outreach’ but Sheffield are very very good with giving us lots of experience in a real dental practice, so we know what life after graduation will actually be like.
I can’t lie, I was pretty nervous before starting the placement as I hadn’t really managed to get lots of clinical experience in the past year due to the obvious. At the same time, I knew going through this process would really start to prepare me for what being a dentist will be like. For that reason, I’m extremely thankful for this placement!
The practice I was assigned to was absolutely lovely and all the staff were so welcoming throughout our time, showing us all the policies and protocols of the place. After an induction on the first day, we started seeing patients straightaway and the biggest change was the speed of working. I was used to seeing 1 or 2 patients in an afternoon session at the dental school but on outreach, this would usually be around 3-5 patients. But actually what I realised was, it wasn’t that anything was rushed at all, it was that everything was just a lot more efficient and things flowed smoothly. Practice nurses are amazing at knowing exactly what you need when, and getting things done before you’ve even realised, which is a huge difference from assisting each other at the dental school.
I was mainly working Monday-Wednesday every week and had three different tutors each day, all of whom were incredible. I got to learn how each person works and took away so much advice, not just about procedures, but about how to navigate working life next year. On Wednesdays, we were also given some tutorial time at lunch where the tutor would talk through a topic and do a short presentation which was really helpful. One that I found very interesting was learning about the demographic of the patients in the area and how that changes treatment needs. Although the days were exhausting, I couldn’t believe how quickly my confidence grew. Side note – I could also really get used to four days off each week…
Over the 6 weeks, I was able to see around 50 patients doing a mixture of things like assessments, fillings and extractions. I almost got to do a root canal treatment and crown prep but it didn’t quite work out for various reasons. Still, reflecting on it all, I really did manage to do a lot and felt supported the entire time by everyone. I think my biggest takeaway from this experience and something that I feel relieved about, is that I do actually really enjoy dentistry, not just in dental school but actual dentistry as a working dentist.
If anyone reading this is joining Sheffield or is in a younger year at Sheffield, outreach is just the best experience and I can’t talk about it enough! The amount of experience you get will differ slightly depending on the practice, but go in with a keen attitude, go over procedures before-hand and take a notebook with them written out step-by-step so you can refer back to it if needed. Below is a vlog I did about Outreach showing you a bit more of what I got up to!