I am sure many of my peers would agree that the current pressures on the junior dentist are substantial. After five years of blood, sweat and tears, we are rewarded by graduating with a heavy student debt.
A survey by the BDA (British Dental Association) found that the average total debt among final-year undergraduate dental students completing their degrees in 2012/13 was £24,734. Along with this comes the uncertainty of actually finding a job! When we do manage to secure a job, the pressures of the current state of the NHS, accompanied by the fact that we have less clinical skill than our predecessors in a more litigious environment, is not at all reassuring. Having reflected on these issues and the current climate at many of my recent presentations and discussions with colleagues, I have found that the morale amongst our generation is understandably low.
Just when we thought it couldn’t get any worse, the GDC (General Dental Council) has proposed the astronomical rise to the annual retention fee. This is clearly going to put a large number of junior dentists in a very difficult position during an already uncomfortable time. The enthusiasm and energy that we had during dental school is slowly being sucked out of us by the pressures of these large organisations. Strangled by legislation and financial requirements, it is all too easy to lose sight of our primary goal of providing high quality patient care.
The GDC and other bodies should be doing more to assist young dentists early in their career rather than rubbing salt in the wound. Surely there is more that can be done than increasing the fee and encouraging patients to complain!
This may start by ensuring the undergraduate curriculum better equips junior dentists to practice comfortably in the big, bad world of dentistry. Specific courses and mentoring services could be organised to help junior dentists manage these overwhelming demands. This might even reduce the number of fitness to practice cases at the GDC, which is the primary reason for the fee increase.
Junior dentists need guidance as well as support and, regardless of what organisation or generation we belong to, we all need to start working together for better patient care.
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