What postgraduate courses should I go on? This is a common question for new associates at an early stage in their career. When planning to work in general dental practice it can feel like there are too many courses to choose from.
The first factor to consider is identifying what learning or developmental needs you have. This can be achieved by creating a well-structured Personal Development Plan (PDP).
Since the introduction of the enhanced CPD in January 2018, all dentists must have a Personal Development Plan (PDP). This is a requirement for the GDC, and maybe requested by the GDC, should they undertake random sampling of a registrant’s records. The PDP provides information on the CPD you plan to undertake during your cycle, the anticipated GDC developmental outcomes achieved from this activity and the expected timeframe you plan to achieve this in. More information regarding how to structure and present a PDP can be found in chapter 3 (The Dental Portfolio).
Once you have made your PDP, you will at least have a starting point to focus on developing your current skillset and knowledge. The next questions will be: how do I achieve my learning needs; shall I choose a short or long course or do I do a university-accredited qualification?
The main point to make in this piece of advice is to focus on mastering the basic foundations of dentistry prior to storming ahead on long distance MSc’s or full-time MClinDent postgraduate qualifications. When considering these courses or qualifications you ought to have a clear idea of how the particular investment in education will benefit you.
Things to contemplate when deciding upon continued education include:
- Does the course or qualification have positive reviews from individuals? Are these reviews from anecdotal and word of mouth recommendation?
- How will the course or qualification benefit your practice now?
- How many direct hands-on contact days are there?
- Do you need to provide patients for experience or are patients provided for you?
- How you going to fund this particular activity? Will it be worth the return on investment? (Not only financial but time spent)
- What tangible benefits will this activity bring to your current and future field of practice? (Aside from post-nominal letters or something to add to your CV)
- Who is the course director? Who are the tutors leading this teaching course? (You should know their qualifications, reputation, experience and what their work is like)
- Is there long-term support following this course or qualification, is there a mentor network or can you gain mentorship whilst you are in practice?
- Can you realistically implement this skill in your day-to-day treatments?
- Does the course carry any formal qualification, e.g. Diploma, Post Graduate Certificate, Masters, Masters in Clinical Dentistry, etc.?
When considering a university qualification the commitment factor is significant. You will need to be mentally prepared for this endeavour, and this shouldn’t be decided on lightly. Firstly you should aim to choose an area of dentistry you genuinely enjoy. Throughout the course duration, you will end up reading several journals and undertaking critical appraisals, so if you do not love the subject matter it will be difficult.
On the other hand, if there is nothing in dentistry that stands out to you yet or you are still ‘strengthening your foundations’ it would not be a bad idea to pursue a range of short courses to gauge your real level of interest.
Remember, new knowledge and skills are never a waste. Becoming an excellent dentist involves applying different disciplines of dentistry together when considering holistic treatment plans for patients.
Following short courses, your understanding of a particular subject may change. You can then decide whether you want or need a formal qualification to complement the existing knowledge you have built.
As touched on earlier, the requirements and structure for a course should be taken into consideration, as many will vary. You may end up pursuing a qualification or course that requires lots of writing and less hands-on practical skills. There may be courses where patients are provided to you or you may have to find patients yourself to carry out the work for the course requirements. This can take considerable time if you are not already carrying out those treatments, so it may be a good idea to keep a running list of potential cases for patients who are considering this form of treatment. It may also be that you will not be remunerated for the work carried out on your patients; something to consider in implantology and facial aesthetics especially. Getting in touch with previous delegates of more than one course will give you a good point of comparison before you commit.
About the author
Dr Kalpesh Prajapat graduated from Liverpool Dental School in 2016, with distinctions in Restorative Dentistry and Oral Health Sciences. Kalpesh pursued DFT In General Practice within Cambridge, followed by Dental Core Training within the Birmingham Dental Hospital. Here Kalpesh provides consultant led Restorative, Oral surgery and Sedation treatments, in addition to holding an on call OMFS role at the Birmingham Children’s Hospital. Kalpesh also works part-time in private practice within Birmingham.
Owing to the importance of personal and professional development, career building and planning Kalpesh teamed up with well-known dental associates and practice owners to help write ‘Dental Associate Interviews: An Ultimate Preparation Guide’. This became an Amazon Best Selling book during its early release.
Kalpesh is currently an NHS Clinical Entrepreneur and enjoys Restorative Dentistry, Oral surgery and Sedation.