Saleem Hasanally is in his third year post-qualification after choosing to do his vocational training over two years at Porth Dental Teaching Unit in Wales. If you're thinking DFT is the only way, read Saleem's experience of training another way.
TWO-YEAR LONGITUDINAL TRAINING
I am sure there are many dentists who felt the same as me. Once I was awarded my BDS - the gateway to a life in my chosen profession - I was faced with the choice; where do I go from here?
Conventional Dental Foundation Training would not let me explore the different specialties. With this in mind, I ranked all of the two-year longitudinal vocational training schemes at the top of my preferences.
This led me to the two-year longitudinal scheme based in the gateway to the Rhondda Valleys; Porth Dental Teaching Unit. We were the third set of foundation dentists to train on the scheme. We trained in a purpose-built eight surgery practice with a postgraduate lecture theatre and its own phantom head room. The practice had state of the art restorative equipment and oral surgery motors in each surgery.
The Porth two-year longitudinal scheme entailed one year in the University Dental Hospital Wales (Cardiff University), and the other year in the Dental Teaching Unit in Porth. The scheme had ten VTs with five trainees in the practice, while the remaining five worked in their chosen hospital rotation.
SETTLING INTO A NEW JOB
Starting a new job is always nerve wracking - a first job in your new career; even more so. My nerves where quickly settled. The Rhondda Valleys are well known for their friendly population and I soon felt relaxed and at home. In addition, being part of a large group of DFTs, five days a week, led to none of the feelings of isolation I had worried about when looking at the conventional DFT scheme.
During the induction process, we were asked to rank our preferred hospital rotation, to enable reasonable matching of the various specialties on offer to our needs. There were a great variety of positions available, including Oral Medicine, Restorative Dentistry, Oral Surgery, Orthodontics and more. I opted to do Oral Surgery and Restorative Dentistry as a split week for my first year, and during the second year chose Restorative Dentistry and Orthodontics.
A FLEXIBLE APPROACH
In Porth the trainers and other staff were very approachable, making a working atmosphere in which we were all comfortable and actively encouraged to ask questions, which provided a great learning experience. I was able to progress at a good pace with gentle pointers, and prompted to consider my future career options and tailor my skills and experience towards them.
The Porth scheme has a uniquely flexible approach. For example, if we wanted particular study days we could request them: the scheme advisor and coordinators really endeavoured to accommodate us, as well as taking into account feedback from previous DFTs to know which days were the most useful.
THE HOSPITAL ENVIRONMENT
During the hospital posts, our responsibilities involved supervising students on emergency Orthodontics, or on Oral Surgery clinics. The consultant clinics greatly improved my proficiency in taking histories, managing common problems referred by GDPs, along with exposing me to rarer conditions and how these were further investigated and treated. During treatment clinics, we were supervised by consultants, and were given opportunities to ask for help where required and learn best practice. Occasionally we worked alongside MClinDent students and observed other clinics, which let us explore more advanced aspects of treatment often unfamiliar to new trainees.
GAINING INSIGHT AND EXPERIENCE
The advantage of working in a high-need area was that we were able to deliver a great quantity of treatment, and there was never a shortage of patients. When following patients over two years I found that I gained a much better insight into case selection and which treatment options were most successful compared to my peers who often did not have the chance to follow up patients after completing their initial course of treatment. Additionally, our trainers guided us based on their vast experience, but also encouraged us to try different things, particularly in keeping with the ever-developing body of evidence based practice.
There was ample opportunity to prepare case reports if something interested us, or to attend journal clubs and audit meetings. As part of the longitudinal vocational training, we each had to carry out two audits and two case presentations over the two years in front of our peers and seniors. This allowed us to become more confident with speaking in public, and an opportunity to receive feedback on our work and question our own practices. Additionally, we were all encouraged to gain presenting experience at national conferences. I was fortunate enough to submit a poster and win a prize at the Welsh Hospitals conference.
A HOME FROM HOME
The majority of the vocational trainees lived in Cardiff. I had never been to Cardiff before, but when I arrived I quickly felt at home. Cardiff is an amazing city with something in it for everyone. There are plenty of sports activities, music festivals, and some great restaurants.
Cardiff is also renowned for its nightlife and is a short drive away from some spectacular scenery. I would definitely recommend Cardiff as a terrific place to live and I am currently here for my third year doing an SHO post in Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery.
CONSIDERING TRAINING OVER TWO YEARS?
I thoroughly enjoyed the two-year vocational training experience, and I can see the value it adds, bringing confidence in your work and broader understanding of treatment planning. I was able to experience various hospital positions providing an introduction to the many aspects of different specialities, and I would definitely recommend it to people applying for VT.
The Porth longitudinal scheme has made me really enjoy the early aspects of my career in Dentistry and has opened my eyes to different areas of the career that I would have otherwise not considered an option.