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Dental Assistant/Dentist
About the placement/internship

Why did you decide to do a placement/internship?

I have had an ambition from a very young age, of helping others. As part of my course the clinical sessions have allowed me to help patients every day, through provision of necessary dental care for the past 3 years of my course.I wanted to expand and maximise this help to benefit a greater number of people, through the incredible opportunity of volunteering abroad with the Poche centre. I had thoroughly enjoyed my experience so far throughout the incredible 3 years. Whilst these opportunities had been invaluable to my practicing career, they had somewhat been limited to very specific clinical task in a specific Hospital/University environment. I always wanted to expand my horizon and perspective of the dentistry from just the clinical environment of University/ hospital where we bring changes to the oral health of patient at an individual level to making changes and bringing benefit to whole population level in a society. I believed that the opportunity to work as part of a fantastic team of individuals determined to help the less fortunate members of the society would allow me to achieve this ambition. And I am grateful to say that it has.

How did you find your placement/internship?

I read a paper on the oral health inequalities in a society. I then came across the indigenous population and the lack of access to oral and general health services for these communities. Strategies were being adopted to eliminate this inequality through educating and equipping community members with the necessary skills. This was as a result of an ongoing collaborative work between different universities in the different states in Australia and the Poche centre. I then got in contact with the relevant people at the University of Sydney to arrange a placement with the Poche team.

Application process

The application process was quite a straightforward one. I got in contact with one of the authors of the paper I came across with. She worked at the University of Sydney. The author was heavily involved with the Poche team. I requested for a possibility of two week work experience with the Poche Centre for Indigenous Health. This request was put through to the School of Clinical Dentistry Sydney, and approved by the Dean, and a confirmation was sent to me.

What made you choose this organisation for your placement/internship?

I found this work experience really interesting and relevant to my chosen career, as it had an oral health focus. Excellent communication, manual dexterity, team working, and clinical skills are some of the vital skills required in dentistry. This volunteering opportunity would not only allow me to develop and enhance these invaluable skills, but also enable me to contribute my expertise in treating these citizens with treatable dental diseases. Honing these skills would ensure I have a successful and smooth transition to the world of work after graduation. I am able to put into practice the combined theories and clinical experience I have acquired into an environment that will bring positive changes to the oral health of a disadvantaged population.

Main responsibilities

As part of this placement I along with my supervisor travelled to some of the remote and rural areas where access to health care including oral health is very limited. These communities rely very heavily on the fly-in and fly-out dental services provided by the Poche Centre for Indigenous Health organisation. The team consisted of final year dental students from the University of Sydney, Oral health therapists, and dental tutors who would overlook treatments provided by the students. As part of the team I assisted the dental students and tutors with providing dental treatments and relocating portable dental equipments, to several locations within the rural areas. I was also involved with providing oral health education to patients and raising awareness for importance of receiving dental treatments.

Typical day

A typical day would consist of the Poche team travelling from the Poche house in Goondiwindi for about half an hour, to reach the Boggabilla community health centre, where it has an empty room, with all portable dental equipments. A days treatment would take place, with variety of patients requiring different dental treatments. An interesting observation I made was common dental procedure for most patient involved disease stabilisation, ie their oral health status had reached to a point where, only emergency treatment would be provided, to either get patient out pain, or to further reduce the extent to damage to the pulp and preserve the pulp health. Once the day came to an end, we would tidy up all the equipments, and transfer all the dental equipments including portable dental chair, tables etc. to the Poche van and set the clinic at one of the other remote locations ready for tomorrows clinic.

What did I enjoy about my placement/internship?

Although the idea of tidying and re-setting a clinic with portable equipments seemed daunting at the beginning, but I very much enjoyed being part of the team to make these sessions happen. As this allowed all the necessary dental treatments to be provided to patients from these communities and get them out of pain. Participating in this team led project, I gained a deeper understanding of the social aspects of oral health and complexities around indigenous populations of Australia. Most importantly it has given me an insight into why such health disparity and inequality (in particular oral health inequality) exists in the indigenous communities.

Challenging aspects

The most challenging aspect of the placement was to compromise with the available dental equipments, and facilities and be able to do more with the less sophisticated facilities at hand. However, the results achieved were more or less the same as when the treatments would be provided at normal hospital clinics, and more importantly patient would be out pain by the end of their appointment!

Did you use any skills learned from your course?

Dentistry as a course is very much hands-on and practical based. The skills mainly used were pulp extirpation, temporisation as patient would come to us in pain with chipped/fractured tooth, heavily carious or decayed teeth. However in addition to this, oral health promotion, screening for periodontal diseases, caries removal and restorations of teeth were also some of the other skills practiced.

Has your time on placement influenced your future career choice?

This work experience has not only allowed me to develop and enhance some invaluable skills, but also enabled me to contribute my expertise in treating these citizens with treatable dental diseases. Honing these skills will ensure I have a successful and smooth transition to the world of work after graduation. I am able to put into practice the combined theories and clinical experience I have acquired into an environment that will bring positive changes to the oral health of a disadvantaged population. My time at this placement has strengthened my love for dentistry, and helping patients even more. It has also given me some insight into what specialities to consider after graduation.

As a result of your placement/internship, what are your next steps in planning what you want to do after graduation?

I would like to work in general practice for a few years after graduation, to further increase my understanding and practical experience in all aspect of dentistry and then hopefully find within which speciality my interest lies in.

Advice to students

My piece of advice to students

My advice to students would be to look for some sort of work experience relevant to your chosen career as early as possible. It not only provides a platform for you to practice what you have learnt in your course, but also will give you an understanding where you would like to go after you finish your course. It even allows you to build some useful networks with important individuals who may be of some help in finding the correct work/ job/ training after graduation.

Other comments

I have thoroughly enjoyed my time at this work experience placement. A massive thank you to the Work Experience Bursary scheme that actually made this experience possible.

Form completed: 17 Apr 2019

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