Sophie Bracken attended the recent BDA Careers Day event in London, a day specifically designed to help young dentists plan their futures
With such a broad spectrum of potential career avenues to consider within the dental profession, young dentists may feel overwhelmed and confused about which route to pursue. But arming the next generation of dental professionals with knowledge and impartial guidance from experts in the field, can help young dentists make the best choice for their future.
The BDA Careers Day aims to do just that. This annual event, which this year took place in London on 12 February, is specifically designed to help young dentists make informed choices about the next steps in their career.
The one-day conference, organised in conjunction with the UCL Eastman Dental Institute, was attended by recently qualified dental practitioners, foundation dentists and those considering their career options. Leading colleagues and experts from a broad spectrum of the profession shared experience of their own careers, and offered sound advice to delegates, whether they had a specific career path in mind or were open to a number of options.
Moreover, an exhibition hall gave attendees the chance to chat with dental employers and organisations that support dentists, including the Dental Defence Union, Wesleyan, Dental Protection and Mydentist, the official sponsor of the event.
The full-day conference began with a welcome from Chris Louca, director of CPD at the UCL Eastman Dental Institute, followed by a brief introduction to the Careers Day by Nairn Wilson, president of the BDA, and a special address by chief dental officer, Sara Hurley.
After a CV workshop, delegates were given the opportunity to attend their choice of multiple concurrently run 30-minute sessions. Over 30 expert speakers were in attendance throughout the day, covering a myriad of topics including getting into private practice, specialist training, tips for securing your first dental job, training opportunities in special care dentistry and working abroad.
Interviews and career pathways
Helen Sharpstone, from learning and development consultancy Sharpstone Skinner, provided practical information in her session, ‘Top tips for succeeding at interviews’. Helen provided the young dentists with insider information on how best to approach daunting job interviews. Among her tips, Helen advised the attendees to appeal to a range of personality types that may be interviewing, to be aware of their non-verbal communication, to practice voice projection and annunciation, and to always ask a positive question to the interviewers.
Young dentist Reena Wadia talked attendees through possible career paths in her session, ‘Developing career and work-life balance’. Reena shared her experiences of deciding to follow the specialist route, warning delegates: ‘Gone are the days of drill and fill; you have to do something to progress your career’.
Although Reena took the specialist route herself, she advised attendees to really consider the question, ‘Should I specialise?’ by asking themselves, ‘Is it right for me? Is there a specialty that really excites me? Can I afford it?’
Reena moved on to explain how she achieves a good work-life balance: ‘Downtime is extremely important to prevent burnout’ she said, encouraging the young dentists to schedule in relaxation and activities, by re-evaluating and re-prioritising their schedules.
Worlds apart – specialist private practice and armed forces dentistry
The BDA Careers Day offered valuable information on almost any conceivable career path as a dental practitioner. For example, Major Fiona Cunningham from the Royal Army Dental Corps offered a fascinating insight into life as a dentist in the armed forces. Major Cunningham briefly ran through some of the highlights of army dentistry over ‘civilian’ dentistry, including no working to UDAs, a lack of financial constraints, ‘undemanding’ patients, competitive salaried employment and a good work-life balance.
‘You’re part of the unit that you’re treating, which is a fantastic way to work’ said Major Cunningham, while stressing that those with a sense of adventure, leadership qualities and a passion for sport would flourish in the armed forces.
At the opposite end of the spectrum, and highlighting the many different career pathways that exist within the dental profession, Dr Pranay Sharma, a specialist in prosthodontics and clinical lecturer in prosthodontics at UCL Eastman Dental Institute, shed light on the challenges and rewards involved in pursuing a career in a specialist private practice.
Firstly, Dr Sharma advised the young dentists in attendance to keep their options open and not to commit to specialism at such an early stage in their careers: ‘I don’t think you make a good specialist if you specialise too early. Be a good generalist first’ he said.
Dr Sharma also warned that specialising requires immense amounts of hard work and sacrifice, but the benefits of this equate to a fulfilling, dynamic career in a practice that runs significantly differently to a general practice.
Highlighting career avenues
Once the lecture schedule had come to an end, delegates heard from John Makin, dento-legal adviser at the Dental Defence Union, at an afternoon plenary session. A drinks reception followed, giving delegates the chance to mingle with speakers and peers.
At the end of the day, Dentistry.co.uk caught up with attendee, Nugman Matloob, to find out if he found the BDA Careers Day a worthwhile event for young dentists who are considering their options.
‘It’s been fantastic; it’s really been enjoyable’, said Nugman, a foundation dentist at Borrowash Dental Centre in Derby.
‘The Careers Day has highlighted avenues on how to get into specialist practice, which is something that I’m considering. I went to the intraoral surgery pathways talk, and I also attended the lecture on general dental practice.
‘I’m currently working as a foundation dentist in Derby. There’s a spare surgery there at the moment so I may stay on there to gain further experience, before I consider further specialist training.
‘It’s going to take a little time to consolidate all the information that I’ve gathered today, but it will definitely help me make a decision on my career in the near future.’