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Graduating from university - beyond the final hurdle

in Final year of dental school

Graduating from university - beyond the final hurdle

Nadeem Rahim is a final year dental student at The University of Sheffield and will be starting Dental Foundation Training in September 2015 in Bedfordshire. This article is aimed at current dental students as an introduction to my experience of the transition from graduating from dental school to beginning dental foundation training.

Graduating from dental school seemed like a distant dream not so long ago, but the past five years have absolutely flown by. There is still a lot of work to do to advance beyond the  hurdle of finals exams but I am now on the verge of beginning what I hope will be an enjoyable and long career.

A fairer system?

The centralised DFT application system has been in action for a few years now. As with any change, it has brought its advantages and disadvantages. All dental students are now on a level playing field, potentially able to work anywhere in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. No group of students are more disadvantaged than others. Exam results do not matter; instead communication skills, professionalism and decision-making take precedence. Thankfully these are things we are already used to practising every day when treating patients. Unfortunately the centralised system brings added uncertainty about where you will be placed, and is especially difficult to remain near to close friends and partners. Trying to rank 63 schemes one above the other is no easy task either – I spent a lot of time researching the top half of my scheme choices and left a lot of the bottom half to instinct. Many students are keen to be placed in London; I know some students regretted not ranking the London schemes higher as they performed a lot better than expected. My advice is to forget about your potential ranking and what your friends are doing and simply order where you would like to work most to least. You never know how things will pan out and you will most likely be happy wherever you end up!

Competing with others is not easy

It is never easy to succeed at interviews, and being ranked against all other graduates based on one day will never truly reflect an accurate ranking of over one thousand students. I ranked somewhere in the middle, but I know a lot of people who ranked below me who are certainly no worse than me as dentists. Even if you rank near the bottom, do not be disheartened - a higher ranking does not necessarily correspond to a more valuable or enjoyable learning experience. COPDEND recently announced that 76 UK graduates are currently waiting without a job offer and that number is far too high. The BDA, who recently succeeded in defending DFTs from a £2,000 pay cut, are pressuring the Department of Health to fund more training placements and hopefully every graduate will have an offer by the summer. I wish them all the best of luck - added stress is not something final year students need!

Moving away or moving home

I am due to begin my career as a foundation dentist on the Bedford Scheme. For some of you, living back at home would be a dream come true and for others it would be a nightmare! I chose a scheme that was not based where I am from, but close enough so that I can return home in about an hour. I have become used to having a degree of independence and I am not sure I could feel as independent living back at home. I have been lucky enough to have been allocated a practice where I will work with another DFT. It is encouraging to know that I will not be alone in my learning experience as I have enjoyed working with those around me. Relocating to a new town or city after five years is a challenge in itself, and as much as I loved studying in Sheffield, I am ready to try somewhere new. Some of us will move back home with our parents, some will rent accommodation with their own space, and others will want to live with other professionals or dentists. I fall into the latter category – I have become accustomed to having people around me and living with others will most likely encourage me to get out and about and be more sociable.

A bleak or promising future?

Changes will always happen in any industry over time. Future changes to the NHS contract, direct access to hygiene and therapists and the increased shift from restorative to preventive treatments are being greeted with subdued pessimism from many dentists. But does this mean that we do not have a successful career ahead of us? I have always believed that success in any job is what you make of it. Throw yourself in and engage with your work, and you will find enjoyment and reward eventually.

Final thoughts

As I look towards the next few years of my life, I cannot help but feel overwhelmed at the options available to me. Currently, I could not tell you with any certainty where I expect to be in five years. More and more dental students are planning to apply for Dental Core Trainee (DCT1) jobs after DFT, keeping future career options open and developing new skills. In five years I could be a general dentist (NHS, private or mixed), a community dentist, a maxillofacial registrar, a practice principal, a clinical tutor, a master’s student or even a medical student! All I know now is that I have an exciting year ahead of me to integrate my patient management and clinical skills into general practice, and it is a challenge I am looking forward to more than ever!

Nadeem Rahim


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