Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Baby Steps

Dental school is all about baby steps - at least for your average joe who has never held a real tool in his/her entire life. That first prep you cut will probably resemble a bombed out crater. The next one you cut will probably look like crap as well. I wanna say I have cut around 30 preps so far and they STILL look like crap for the most part. Now crap being a relative term...they WOULD hold an amalgam - but the perfectionist pre-clinic instructors demand scrutiny.

GET LOUPES - especially if you are super-tall (like me). They have made an ENORMOUS difference in the quality of my work. I got 3.0x and am considering getting a head lamp because I can't stand the lamps in the clinics here.

Again, baby steps. Today we cut our first class I OB on #19; despite being the first time - this turned out to be the best prep I have ever made. After celebrating mentally, I quickly realized that I still need to practice amalgam placement because a beautiful prep means jack shit if you can't properly place the amalgam.

Next, we tried an OL prep on #3 - my prep resembled a giant abyss with craggy outcroppings. Using the mirror is truly a getting-used-to experience.

Again, baby steps. The key is to get better..the problem is that many people expect to become dental gods insantly - we are here 4 years for a reason. Your hands might be shaky..that isn't a unique problem - it has to do with finger rests and getting comfortable with the handpiece. You need to develop certain muscles in your hand that you have never really used.

This takes time, again - BABY STEPS.

The greatest frustration though is when you suddenly FALL backwards in progress. You have just made a killer prep and suddenly your next one looks completely terrible. Don't cry, just do it again. I have started coming in on weekends to get some extra practice; this helps ten-fold. The place is dead, all the material is just sitting around for you, and silence is bliss. It is nice to not have someone bump into you while you are drilling away.

I can also get my rubber dam on in about 5 minutes now instead of 10...BABY STEPS!

Don't expect to be a pro at everything you do the first time. You learn as you go, you learn as you repeat. If you feel uncomfortable after several repeats, get extra practice. A lot of people say hand skills are either had or not..this is bullshit. It is just like any other skill; some people just need more time to develop said skills.

The real difficulty lies in balancing didactic coursework with clinic practice...because a grade is a grade regardless of how useless the class seems (neuroanatomy).

However, the most important thing..and I'll probably make an entire post about this later is NOT to compare yourself to your peers. There will be a few people in your class that are just naturally awesome at the clinic stuff - do NOT get intimidated by them. In fact, get advice if you can, most of them will be happy to help and they often have cool tricks that other professors told them. You guys are a class - work together.

Whenever I compare my crap prep to someone who is nailing them, it just drives me nuts. Everyone advances at different paces - focus on YOU. When I actually do that, I calm up a ton because I realize that I am getting loads better each and every prep. The occasional positive reinforcement from a professor always helps as well. The fact that I was able to do a great job on the OB on #19 on the first shot was a pretty cool experience. Now if only I could get the maxillary thing down... well..maybe I'll just have to refer those out...DENTIST (mandibles only).

Tomorrow is the famed 'Clinic and Research Day' here at UIC. Remember how I did that summer research deal? Yea, well now I am forced to present a poster on my research tomorrow. The problem is...I haven't really looked at this stuff very much since August and I'm going to be getting judged and have to present to research elitists. UGH.

So I realized that there is no way I am going to re-learn every little detail on wound-healing and mast cells in the next hour or so...I figure I may as well just wing it.

The research really isn't complete, so why I am doing a presentation is beyond me. Oh well, 2 hours of embarrasment is worth the 500 bucks I am getting (still owed from the summer deal).

It really isn't THAT bad...I actually made a poster so that refreshed my memory enough to answer the basics. It made me nostalgic for the days of summer when I could wake up a 9am and be home by 2...with an entire day of lazing around ahead of me.


On our first neuro quiz, only 4 out of 67 got all the questions right. I should mention that there were only THREE questions and they were MULTIPLE CHOICE. The professor insists that if 4 people can get perfects, then we all just need to study more. Yeap...worst class ever. I smell a remediation....well I'm sure 62 others do as well.

Ah but I'll save that for my next D-1 experience post. Hopefully I'll find time once gross anatomy finishes up in 2 weeks.

Now I better go over my poster again so I don't look as stupid tomorrow.