Covering all bases

Far from providing limited career opportunities, dentistry has a wealth of different job avenues that recent graduates can explore. Of course, many people will already know where they want to be, and that is usually in practice. Whether this is prompted by a sense of financial security after a ‘loan-intensive’ spell at university, a desire to get more experience or simply because they like practice life, working in this environment can be a good choice.

However, life after Vocational Training (VT) can be daunting. Without the cushion of knowing that your practice has been vetted and approved as ‘good’, how do you know whether the associate job you accept is the right one? What should you be looking for?

A lot of it is common sense. After a year of working in a ‘good’ practice you will know what you like and don’t like and what kind of working conditions you expect. Still, there are some things that you won’t have considered and it is important when you are entering a new working arrangement that you make sure all bases are covered.

1. The most important thing to think about is the dentistry you are going to be doing. What type of patients are you going to see and what type of treatment are they going to need? Does this fit in with what you are looking for?

2. If you are going to work in a practice, which has a mixture of NHS and private work, discuss how this will be shared out at interview. Sometimes the distribution of private work can become an issue in a practice. It may be that the practice owner sees all of the new private patients and therefore the associate doesn’t get to see any. Obviously this can have a big impact on your earnings so you have got to make sure you are happy with the arrangement.

3. Consider the locality of where you are going to work and spend some time in the catchment area of the practice if you haven’t been there before. Doing this will help you to get to know the area and find out whether you will be happy working there.

4. Some people prefer to find out about practice jobs by word of mouth. This can be successful in some cases but it is still recommended that you check the practice out thoroughly and don’t just rely on good will.

5. It is essential that you have a written contract so that it is clear what is expected of you and what you expect in return. It has got to cover many aspects including finances, what your hours of work are and what sort of notice you need to give for holiday. It also needs to cover restrictions; usually the main one is what happens if you leave the practice and want to set up one of your own.

6. The facilities that are available in the practice can be another deciding factor in whether you opt to work at a practice. Taking the time to check what equipment is in place is invaluable before committing to a practice. Something to be wary about when you are thinking about joining a practice is any equipment that is ‘on a promise’. When a practice owner says they are going to invest in equipment, it is important to ask about the timescale involved and whether they have budgeted for it.

7. Be aware of the size of the support team of nurses and reception staff and even if the practice is nicely decorated. All these factors will affect your daily working life. It is also vital to inspect the health and safety and emergency procedures that are followed in the practice.

8. Take time to meet the dental team, after all they are going to be your colleagues on a daily basis and it is important you have a good working relationship with them.

9. Ask the practice owner whether you will have one nurse who consistently works with you or whether the nurses are rotated among the dentists on a regular basis. Different practices have different arrangements and you may find you prefer the continuity of one nurse or the variety that working with different team members brings.

10. Find out whether there are regular staff meetings where the dental team can talk about the practice and, if not, how much input you are allowed in practice matters on an individual basis. It can be crucial to have regular meetings so that any grievances or ideas can be brought up. For some people it can be difficult to work at a practice if you have no say in its general management.

11. Finally, take your time. It is only natural that you will feel anxious about finding the perfect practice to work in but don’t rush into anything. Be sure that you follow the steps above and find out as much as you can about your place of work. Remember a good practice will have nothing to hide.

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