Monday, October 8, 2018

starting rotations

How can it be that it's actually here? I finally rode off into the sunset to start my dental rotations. In order to understand how phenomenal this is, I have to explain how they work.

The fact that I'm participating in rotations at all is fairly unique. More unique than any other dental school in the country actually because my dental school functions on a combination of a medical school model and a dental school model. Like medical students, we leave to do away rotations during our senior year. This is not a common practice for dental schools. And while some dental students may participate in a rotation of a couple of weeks here or there, I am doing 3 sets of 8 week long rotations-again similar to medical school models. But unlike medical students, we aren't all that limited on the procedures we can perform. Dental students entering clinicals are expected to perform, not observe. 

While I was at the dental school, I was treating 2-3 patients a day with long appointments. A lot of that had to do with the fact that I was responsible for set-up, break-down, and clean-up in between patients. But mostly, there was lots of stoping and starting during the course of a procedure to wait for a check from faculty. That's how you learn. Imagine it like cooking. If you were going to make dinner, first you have to take all the ingredients out of the fridge. But then STOP. Now you need to wait for someone to check that you've gathered all of the ingredients properly. Then you move onto washing the vegetables, but WAIT, there is another STOP for a check. Onto chopping up veggies. But for each vegetable that you chop, you have to STOP in between and wait for someone to say that you've done that correctly and may proceed. Etc. etc. etc. It's this whole tedious process. For an experienced cook, this recipe would take only 30 minutes, but for someone learning and being checked along the way-it may take 3 hours. And this is how we learn dentistry, in steps and phases. But after more than a year of this, you need less and less stops and checks on the in between steps. Enter rotations.

During my first week on rotation, I was already treating 4-6 patients a day. I have my own assigned operatory and an assistant to help me most days. The reason that dentists can even treat 20+ patients a day is because they have a whole staff to help manage things. I'm just greateful for my one assistant. And I'm so grateful for the trust and leeway that my Attending (licensed dentist that supervises me) gives me. Say I'm doing an extraction, I'm typically allowed to numb the patient, elevate the tooth, pull the tooth, clean the socket, place stitches, and write a prescription all on my own. Don't get me wrong-I am being supervised. My Attending enters my operatory at regular intervals, observes for a few moments, and leaves the room. Sometimes he offers up a suggestion that may help me work faster or smarter, but in most cases, they say nothing at all. As a student, I am no longer being micromanaged, instead I'm being encouraged to do entire procedures based off of the decisions that I am making. In this way, I'm being nurtured to become a functional dentist. 

I have gained so so so much confidence in the very short time I've been on rotation. Because I know that I'm trusted by my Attending, it helps me trust myself to do more on my own. Of course if I really need help, I ask for it. But first, I think to myself, do you really need help? Maybe that first thing you tried didn't work. But why didn't it work? What else do you know? What are your other options? Don't panic and fall back on help if you don't have to, figure it out Jasmine. I'm really forcing myself to problem solve on my own, which is important because in a few short months, I won't have anyone to ask for help. I will be the one in charge and I will have to figure it out myself. So it's good to practice now. 

And it's easy to practice now because of the amount of experience I'm getting. With being able to treat more patients a day, I'm beginning to feel really confident. I've extracted hundreds of teeth. And I've literally lost track of how many dentures I've made and how many children I've treated. Placing restorations are second nature now. And being confident in the basics of dentistry has helped me push my way through doing procedures that I've only ever read about. 

I was really worried about starting rotations because during my remaining time at the dental school, I just kept telling myself-wait for rotations. It's going to be amazing! When you amp something up in your head, there's always that little what if moment where I think to myself what if it's not as great as I'm imagining. But in this case, being on dental rotation is even more incredible than I could have ever possibly fathomed. Everyday that I am on rotation is another day that affirms that dentistry is what I'm meant to be doing. 

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