Cool, calm and collected

A large part of preparing for your finals is dealing with patients – after all, in just a few months you will be expected to deal with them every day and although you will have the support of your VT trainer, for the most part you will be on your own. This is why the case presentation and clinical quota parts of your exams are so important.

Many people worry about hitting these targets and whether their case presentations will work out how they had hoped. This is understandable, but try not to get too nervous before the big day and remember to treat the exam like any other day at the dental school.

Luckily there are a few techniques and tips you can employ before embarking on this part of your finals. Follow the advice below and you are sure to wow both your patients and your examiners and be one step away from that ultimate end prize, qualification.

Top tips

• Clinical quotas. At this stage of term you need to be making sure that your clinical quotas are either done or well on their way to being completed. If you are struggling to find suitable patients, don’t bury your head in the sand, do something about it now. Arrange to see your clinical tutor to talk through your next steps.

• Case presentation. Similarly, depending on when your case presentation exam is, it is important that you have decided on your ideal candidate and have at least one other possible case in reserve. Also, it is a good idea to check that your patient can make the appointment on the day of your exam. Checking now will avoid confusion and disappointment later on.

• Voice. Some psychologists believe that it is not what you say but the way you say it that really matters. If you mumble, talk very quickly or in a strained high-pitched voice then this automatically signals to the listener that you are anxious. Talking to someone in a calm, authoritative and measured voice ensures that you will engage their interest. Some research has shown that words account for only 7% of a message’s impact. The rest is attributed to other cues such as tone of voice and facial expression, so it is important that you get it right.

• Body language. This can reveal a lot about what you are feeling to other people. Whether you believe wholeheartedly in the principles behind body language or are just aware that certain poses or stances may affect how you are perceived by others, it is worth remembering a few simple points. Touching your face or stroking your neck are both signs of nervousness and stress. Folding your arms tightly across your chest makes you appear defensive. Playing with you hair is a sign of anxiety and tapping your feet indicates impatience. All of these should be avoided when talking to patients and the examiner. If you find it difficult to break the habit, try practising in other social situations where you feel more at ease.

• Relax, and remember to take your time when seeing patients – this is especially important on the day of your exam. If you are rushing around you will give the impression of being disorganised or nervous. Take a deep breath, relax and think clearly about what you are going to say and do, what you will need and how you are going to present it.

• Confidence plays a large part in how you come across to people. If you’ve got it, the chances are that developing a good relationship with your patients will come naturally. If you struggle with it then an appointment can turn into an awkward exchange where neither yourself or the patient feels comfortable. There are ways to improve your confidence levels, so don’t give up.

• Clothes. Rightly or wrongly, clothes form the basis of how people judge you. As a professional, patients expect you to be turned out in a certain way. That means making sure your clothes are clean, ironed, fit well and make you look the part. And don’t forget your shoes, these should also be clean. There is a certain amount of truth in that old saying of ‘dress for the job you want, not the job you’ve got’. If you feel confident about your appearance on the day of the case presentation, that will transfer not only to your patients and the examiner, but to your colleagues as well.

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