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Keeping an Open Mind During Externships

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         Dental school is similar to a really good movie, in my opinion.   Think about it, in a truly great film you are invested, you’ll laugh, cry, and wish there was more when it is over.  Being a 4th year student, I’m not sure if that last one really qualifies, but I’m sure the time will come when it does (I remember wishing I was back in undergrad around my second Gross Anatomy exam in dental school, haha).  As I look back, one of the main aspects that have affected every step of my dental school career is the fact that I am a member of the inaugural class and this has given me a unique perspective.  My final semester is approaching and I’ve recently completed an outside clinical rotation.  Being a newer program, our school has a different approach to the externship process.      

From friends at other programs, I’ve heard some students spend as little as 2 weeks on a rotation.  To give a reference, at UNE we complete 3 12-week rotations.  Now, not all 3 are external, but most students complete 2 of the 3 off-campus.  After learning the various types of rotations at other schools, I am very happy with the experience I received.  Of course there were some downsides- for instance finding housing was extremely stressful- but the good heavily outweighed any of the adversities.  I wanted to take the time to give the biggest piece of advice to anyone going on a clinical rotation- BE OPEN MINDED! 

Whether you are somewhere for 1 week, 1 month, or 1 semester, it is crucial to remain flexible and try to absorb all the information you can.  It will be challenging no matter where you go, and that’s okay- I promise, you’ll get the hang of it.  Confidence is key, but remember you will have a preceptor and never be afraid to speak up for yourself or ask questions.  Those being said, keep in mind your professionalism when speaking to the preceptor, staff, patients, and auxiliary team members as well.  More than likely, everything will be different from what you’ve grown accustomed to at your school- software, scheduling, materials, operatory set-up, radiographs, etc.  And this is why being open minded is of the utmost importance.

If you close your mind off, you’ll lose the opportunity to learn and grow as a clinician.  Not to say that you will want run your office exactly as your externship, perhaps you’ll observe certain aspects of a dental practice that you don’t want to implement in the future- you’re still learning and gaining experience.  It’s easy to go in with blinders on and not branch out, but as dental students we aren’t used to easy- getting here wasn’t easy, staying here surely wasn’t, and while I’m not there yet I assume post-graduation won’t be such a cake walk (cough*paying back student loans*cough).  I believe a part of any dental students personality is the ability to adapt and as long as you keep that in mind, you will be successful on any and all clinical rotations.  Best of luck to all of you and I strongly encourage you to take advantage of opportunities in communities you are unfamiliar with.  As they say “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone”.