As a fourth-year student approaching graduation, it can be hard to stay motivated. Over the past four years, you have worked hard, and now you feel “senioritis” looming. Although coasting to the finish line seems appealing, it may not be the best option. If you have completed your competencies, you may find yourself with a lot of free time. Use that time to expand your education. Here are some ideas to build on your educational foundation during your final semester.
Ask more questions.
By now, most fourth-year dental students will have completed the majority of the requirements for graduation, which means the pressure is off. Use this opportunity to ask questions about specific procedures, materials or techniques. Ask faculty how they would approach the procedure. After graduation, it may be more difficult and costly to get answers to those questions.
Take advantage of free or discounted continuing education (CE) courses.
CE courses are a requirement to maintain licensure, and now is a good time to start the habit of participating in them regularly. It is impossible for a dental school curriculum to teach every aspect of dentistry in detail in four years. Plus, much of the material that we learned about will be outdated in the future due to advancements in materials and technology. ASDA members receive a complimentary, unlimited CE subscription for one year on all of the courses in the DrBicuspid.com online CE library, so you can start there. Find something you are interested in learning more about and go for it.
Learn from specialists at your school.
Most of the dental schools in the United States have at least one dental specialty. As general dentists, we will be expected to perform a variety of procedures at the level of a specialist. I cannot think of a better way to learn about procedures than by observing and learning from specialists. In the future, you may need to refer to them so start the relationships now.
Shadow a dentist in private practice.
During dental school, we receive limited experience in managing a practice. Shadowing at an outside dental office can help bridge the gap. It can also be a great opportunity to learn more about a practice you are interested in joining.
Participate in mission trips/elective outreach.
Mission trips can increase your cultural competency while improving your clinical skills. Participation facilitates dental care delivery to patients with significant barriers and affords the opportunity to experience how dentistry differs regionally and worldwide.
Contact your state’s ADA chapter about future opportunities.
Involvement in organized dentistry is an important part of improving our future profession. Following graduation, becoming an ADA member is an important first step. Membership gives you access to study groups, networking opportunities and continuing education.
Before you decide to coast to graduation, explore ways to improve your professional self. These are just a few suggestions on how to expand on your experiences in dental school. Remember: In a few short months, there will not be faculty looking out for you. Take strides to get ready for that moment because your patients will expect you to be prepared.
About Jerad Servais
Jerad Servais is a fourth-year dental student at the University of Minnesota school of dentistry. When he is not performing duties as an electronic editor for ASDA he enjoys spending time with his wife, family and friends.