Management + Leadership

What to do when two clinic professors have differing opinions

With each new patient comes a complex set of systemic illnesses and oral conditions. Similarly, with each new professor comes slightly differing opinions and a subtle subjectivity in clinical judgment. So what do you do when these differences in opinions affect both you and your patient?

Although all of our professors are dentists, each had a unique clinical experience during his or her training and practice experience. At Georgia Regents University, our clinic professors rotate, with variability as to which faculty is present on any given day. Since daily professors may change, have an idea of who serves as chair of each department and consult them if you have a major discrepancy. I had an experience in clinic where a patient who was determined to be a candidate for veneers came in for fixed sequencing. The professor I happened to have that day decided he did not agree with the current treatment plan. Situations like this can be frustrating and, many times, can confuse your patient, who is already financially and emotionally prepared for the planned treatment. So how do you deal with the differing opinions of clinic professors? From my experience, here are a few pieces of advice that can help to relieve these situations:

  1. Be your patient’s advocate. Clinic professors are tending to multiple students at a time, so make sure you know your patient’s desires, fears and doubts. Even if the treatment changes, you are still able to determine an appropriate alternative that will hopefully satisfy your patient and your professor.
  2. Stay calm. If you are confused, ask the professor to talk privately so you can better understand the situation. Try not to get defensive or show your frustration. Remaining calm will help establish trust and rapport with your patient.
  3. Know your stuff. Walking into clinic not knowing why a certain treatment is indicated is a huge no-no. Do your research, and be sure you agree with the indicated treatment in the first place. Consider alternatives before you encounter a confusing situation.
  4. Go with the flow. Don’t panic if a suspected Class 2 restoration becomes a core build-up. Keep an open mind—be willing to acknowledge that there is more than one way to interpret or approach a patient’s condition and don’t become needlessly committed to the first path you explored.
  5. Learn something. You are in dental school after all! Take the opportunity to soak up what each professor has to offer. Every time you are thrown off track, you are becoming a more experienced clinician with a deeper knowledge base to treat your current and future patients.

Both you and your professors are seeking the best possible treatment for your patient. Keep an open mind, stay flexible and know that each professor has something new to teach you.

Have you encountered this situation? Let us know what has worked for you in the comments below.

~Alena Reich, Georgia ’15, 2013-14 legislative coordinator, Districts 4 & 5

Alena Reich

Alena Reich is a third year at Georgia Regents University. She also served as 2013-14 legislative coordinator for Districts 4 and 5, and is the GRU chapter president.

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