The transition from dental student to practicing dentist can be challenging for many. It can take time to gain confidence, and it’s easy to feel overwhelmed with ramping your speed and improving your clinical skills. The PDS® Dentist-in-Training™ (DIT™) program helps accelerate the learning curve and navigate a clear path to success. This program provides an opportunity for select third- and fourth-year dental students to secure a future associateship, gain access to the PDS platform and a PDS-supported owner dentist, while completing graduation requirements or awaiting licensure. This structured approach to mentorship and training allows students and new graduates to get paid for working in the office while gaining confidence and competence in real-world dentistry prior to licensure.
To see how this program can help accelerate learning and development, Dr. Kate Egan, PDS-supported owner dentist, discusses how it fast-tracked her path to ownership. Dr. Egan is a 2017 graduate of the University of Minnesota School of Dentistry and is the owner dentist at Dentists at Highland Park in St. Paul, Minnesota.
From your perspective, what are the greatest benefits of the DIT program for a student or new-graduate dentist?
You get to work with your team before being licensed. This allows you to figure out your specific team’s dynamics and how you will fit into it before you start seeing patients and worrying about diagnosis, treatment planning, etc. The DIT role affords you the time to work shoulder-to-shoulder with the other doctors in your practice, to shadow the specialists who come into your office, and to forge bonds with front- and back-office team members so that trust has already been established as you start seeing patients.
Tell us about your experience in the program prior to licensure.
I spent two to three weeks as a DIT before I obtained my license and started seeing patients. Some of my colleagues got involved earlier in their fourth year. I enjoyed getting to know my team and observing the patient-centric environment in action, as well as getting to know the materials in my office and the owner dentist’s preferred labs for procedures. Coming straight out of dental school, I was intimidated but excited about same-day dentistry, and it was great to observe CAD/CAM dentistry in action and see what is possible.
What should the owner dentist and office team do to help those in the program have a positive experience?
I think it’s important for the owner dentist and the team to realize that in the case of a new graduate, they are coming from seeing two to four patients a day, rarely working with a dental assistant and having faculty check everything. All of a sudden, they have complete responsibility and accountability. It’s necessary to reassure a new-graduate dentist that their team will have their back and let them see that teamwork in action before they start. I think it also fosters inclusivity so that the new dentist feels like a welcome part of the team.
How did the DIT program support your transition from dental school to practicing dentist?
I observed how a productive and effective schedule looked instead of being overwhelmed and thrown into patient care on day one. Anytime someone is in a new clinic, there is always a fear of the unknown and of not fitting in. My transition was more seamless and effective because of the DIT program.
What were your initial goals as a new dentist?
I wanted to ramp fast! I was tired of the bureaucracy of dental school, start checks, prep checks, limited availability, scheduling all treatment out, etc., and I was unsure of how to bridge the gap between what I knew from school and what I wanted in real-world practice. The DIT program helped me envision a way to achieve my goals and get comfortable with my front-office and back-office team so they knew my goals as well. Through shadowing and assisting other doctors in my office, I learned key dialogue to help gain treatment acceptance as well as how to set my specialists, hygienists, dental assistants and front-office team members up for success with our patients.
What were some of the challenges you faced as a new dentist?
Information overload. There is so much to learn whenever you are in a new office, such as the electronic health record system, materials, office dynamics and scheduling. It was beneficial to have two to three weeks with this type of information repeated every day so that when I started seeing patients, I felt confident in everything I did. I knew how to chart, where materials were and how to use them, and who to find if I had a question.
What can a student or new graduate do to get the most out of their experience in the DIT program?
Ask questions. At my Introduction to Clinical Excellence course through the PDS University™ – Institute of Dentistry curriculum, one of the PDS senior executive team members told a story that resonated with me. It boils down to asking questions to figure out the dynamics and flow of the office. Each office is different and as a new addition to the team, I saw it as my job to figure out how my puzzle piece fit, instead of waiting for the team do it for me.
What advice do you have for a student or new graduate considering the program?
Be a sponge! You’re finishing four rigorous years of school to become a dentist, and you have the technical skills to be successful. Your first year of seeing patients is all about growing your patient base and improving your skills. Nothing will help these skills more than getting patients to say “yes” to treatment. Through the DIT program, you can observe all the systems and processes in your office that can help get patients to that “yes” and see how a dentist successfully navigates a multi-column schedule with the help and support of their team. I have found that the most difficult part of dentistry isn’t the actual treatment, but the interpersonal connections that we must create with our team members and our patients to be successful.
Embarking on your career as a new dentist should be an exciting challenge, not a stressful one. The DIT program is an intentional approach to help students and new graduates accelerate their learning and development to find early success as a new dentist.
This blog post was sponsored by Pacific Dental Services.