When we first graduated, there were times we thought we knew everything, and there were times we thought we knew nothing. These raging fluctuations in our self-assessment were disruptive to our professional self-esteem. If we could impart some of the knowledge that we learned along the way, we think we could save some new graduates from a lot of needless anxiety and provide a bit of stability. Here are five things we wish we had known we needed to do when we graduated from dental school:
1. Create boundaries between our patients and ourselves. Of course we need to empathize with our patients, but we also need to heal them. In order to do that, we must understand that although our patients may be very emotional about their oral health, our job is to console and to help patients take care of their oral health concerns without assuming ownership of their problems. If we overly identify with our patients and begin to feel their pain, our ability to help them is hampered.
2. Remember that when we’re feeling unsure of ourselves, we have many resources. We must continue to learn and improve for the rest of our careers through self-reflection and life-long learning. Once we realize that our knowledge is not stagnant, it’s much easier to reconcile uncertainty as a temporary condition that can be resolved with a minimal amount of effort.
3. Foster our relationships with our mentors and colleagues. While in school, we have a built-in community of like-minded professionals. Once we graduate, we need to create that community for ourselves so that we can continue to benefit from the comfort, support and assistance provided through professional friendships and collegial relationships.
4. Understand that until we own a practice, we will not have autonomy. As long as someone employs us, we answer to a boss. Nonetheless, we are still responsible for the treatment we render. So if our employer is requesting that we perform treatment and we do not agree with the treatment plan, we need to respect our own judgment and remember that we, as the treating dentists, ethically bear the ultimate responsibility for treatment decisions. We then need to address the situation by having a professional conversation with our employer about why we disagree.
5. Remember that dentistry is only one component of our lives. In dental school, most of us became consumed with school related tasks and had little time to develop or sustain other interests. Go to a movie. See a show. Spend time with family. Go for a hike. Read a newspaper. Re-enter society, and bring your business card!
We know that through time and experience, uncertainty will most definitely be replaced with confidence. We’ve taught graduating students for the past 25 years, and consistently, when we see them one year after graduation, they have transformed from anxious novices into composed and self-assured caregivers.
And so will you.
Dr. Ivy Peltz and Dr. Eric Studley are New Dentist Now guest bloggers and are both GP directors and clinical associate professors at New York University College of Dentistry, their alma mater. They are the co-founders of Doccupations, an algorithmic dental job matching website. Dr. Peltz and Dr. Studley live in New York City and Port Washington, NY. When they have free time, they enjoy traveling, listening to live music, and resting! They exercise daily, they try to eat healthfully, and they walk on the beach weekly.