The final stretch – keeping up your academic motivation

The final stretch – keeping up your academic motivationUniversity students have seen their worlds turned upside down over the last 14 months. Prabjot Mann writes about how she’s kept up her motivation as the academic year draws to an end. 

The past year has had a huge impact on dentistry including students. The goal post for graduation has moved further away, with disruption to clinical experience being the main cause.

As a current dental hygiene and therapy student, I have experienced first-hand the stress and pressures of being a final year student during this time. It is so easy to dwell on the bad news of a delayed graduation. I found myself doing this most days.

My motivation levels were low and I felt as if I would never leave university. Although there was a bright side to all this. It may have taken me a while to see the positive in the whole situation. But once I did, I found my motivation picked up and the goal post did not seem so far away.

More opportunity, more experience

The easing of lockdown resulted in an increase in the number of clinics and community placements available to students. The opportunity to have more clinical exposure and seeing more patients comes with the benefit of gaining more confidence and experience as a clinician.

I focus most of my university time on clinical activity. This has boosted my motivation and determination to graduate.

Spending more and more time with patients has increased my confidence as a dental therapist. I can see how far I have come and that the final stretch to qualifying is on the horizon.

Adapting to a new a normal in familiar settings

Since the start of the pandemic dentistry has adapted to a new normal, with the introduction of stricter PPE guidance and fallow times. Many dental professionals had to deal with the changes quickly, with little or no time to prepare.

Being a student during this time has allowed me to learn and adapt to this new way of working with the support of tutors and clinical leads, something I am hugely grateful for. I sympathise with those newly-qualified clinicians having to deal with the added strain of new guidelines and regulations.

The goal post may have moved but it is still in sight

Before the pandemic I was counting down the days to graduation, imagining life as a fully qualified dental therapist. My motivation levels were high knowing that each completed exam, assessment and portfolio meant I was closer to reaching the final goal post. The delay to graduation owing to the pandemic really took a knock on my motivation levels.

I felt as if my vision of becoming a qualified dental therapist was drifting further and further away. Fortunately I had the support of my peers, tutors, friends and family to remind me that the delay was only short term and I would eventually reach my goal. Being able to take a step back and see the bigger picture really helped put the situation into perspective.

Yes, the delay meant extra time at university. However, I was still on track to eventually qualify.

If all else fails, remember why you started

Like many jobs and courses, there are highs and lows. University are hugely stressful for anyone. Some experiences can really knock your confidence and motivation levels. But it’s so important to remember why you started.

There is an immense amount of pressure on final year students affected by the pandemic, with delayed exams, portfolios and assignments being squeezed in to the final few months. Because of this, the final stretch to qualification is intense. I find by focusing on the end goal, both my determination and motivation levels stay high – pushing me to succeed.

As the days count down to finals, I am both excited and nervous to be able to begin my career as a fully qualified dental therapist, looking back at my university experience and thinking: ‘I made it!’


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