Jignesh Panchal recaps treating his first patient.
Towards the end of our second year of BDS, we undertake a clinical readiness examination, which is designed to assess and confirm whether we are fit to treat our own patients. Essentially, this exam allows us to transpose the skills gained in the phantom head room into a real-life clinical setting. At this early stage in our undergraduate training, we are mainly allocated patients with basic treatment needs such as treatment planning, simple restorative work, and recording and assessing periodontal indices. These patients have often been under the care of senior students who have completed their treatment plan and are essentially passed down the BDS ladder to junior colleagues.
After being told that I was ‘clinically ready’, I was presented with two sets of case notes. This was it, my very own patients to treat – the moment I had envisaged since deciding on a career in dentistry as a schoolboy. I was now fully responsible for booking in my patients and their subsequent, albeit fairly basic, treatment.
Ready and waiting
Feeling a mixture of nervousness and excitement, I arrived at the clinic 30 minutes early to prepare my dental unit and present the case to my tutor. After collecting the patient from the waiting room, I suddenly felt an air of professionalism and (thankfully) confidence came over me as I introduced myself. I took the patient’s history and updated all records that required doing so. After performing basic intraoral and extraoral examinations, I proceeded to carry out a scale and polish as advised by my tutor. As we are still novice clinicians to say the least, clinical tutors oversee and check each step of the treatment, which is one the main reasons that dental appointments with students are considerably longer than out in practice. Looking to the next few appointments with this particular patient, my first restoration will be refilling an LL8 and resecting a small amount of hyperplastic gingivae using an electrocautery.
Confidence is key
The first day of clinic will inevitably be one of nerves, excitement and trepidation, but I can certainly say that I felt like a ‘real dentist’. This was a brief account of treating my first patient at the Royal Liverpool University Dental Hospital that I am sure many other dental students can relate to. Looking back at this milestone event, it was important that I had confidence in my abilities, but equally important that I instilled this confidence into the patient. Thankfully, there were no horror stories to be told after the first day at the clinic!