Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The D-3 Experience III

A few days into another nice two week vacation and I unfortunately find my thoughts drifting towards school. While grades have become less important to me, I still have the competitive spirit as well as a personal desire to do well. My last two semesters were frustrating beyond words in terms of final grading. I was borderline in TONS of classes and ended up on the wrong end in pretty much every class. The culmination of those being my restorative clinic grade over the summer (89.7).

This last fall semester was probably my favorite of all dental school thus far. It would have won the honor hands down was it not for a host of TERRIBLE, and I repeat, TERRIBLE lecture classes. I can count on one hand how many valuable lectures we actually received. It was mostly PhD and researchers lecturing us with statistics and numbers. The part that frustrates me is that we would have the same lecture in a different class by a different person and the numbers would be different. I was involved in research in undergrad and my summer prior to school – it is definitely an imperfect system with so many problems that I don’t put much stock in new progress unless there are a TON of papers supporting any given theory/thesis.

But I digress, the other minor gripe I have is that yet again I find myself on the precipice of getting an ‘A’ in all of my classes, yet seem to be getting screwed in a few big ones. Granted, the final grade isn’t up, but my comp care IIIb percentage sits at 91.8 or something like that and of course, this is the one class where you need a 92…sigh. I know there has to be a cutoff at some point, but jeez, help a brother out.

However, in completely opposite fashion, I have cause to actually celebrate. My faculty evaluation this semester went up (albeit a small amount, but up nonetheless) and I consider that the most important grade of all – your own evaluation. I felt as though I had improved dramatically this semester. Not simply in terms of number of procedures – but in comfort level, patient interaction, plain and simple confidence. I have worked with the entire faculty in our clinic at this point (some a lot more than others) but I have gotten positive feedback from each and every one at some point. While my grade didn’t dramatically elevate, it still went up though – indicating that the faculty see improvement as well. Positive reinforcement is always nice.

The point is not about the letter or the percent (unless you find yourself failing or gunning I suppose), but about how you feel about your own dental skills. If you had asked me to extract a tooth last spring, I would have tried sure, but I would have been scared shitless. Now I am jacking them out left and right without a second thought. All the pharmacology crap that I just could never keep straight? It is starting to come around. Yea, I have a long way to go – but I am slowly but surely recognizing medications without having to look them all up. All those first times are gone and now it is experience and practice that I am worried about. How many direct restorations can I finish in one appointment? I started off with one per session regardless of how easy it was. My current record is three, and I realize that with an assistant, I will be blazing through cavities in the future.

At this point in the D-3 year, you need to feel like the clinic is your home at school. The faculty all know who you are, the D-2s are beginning to timidly bring in patients and wear loupes during a routine cleaning. It’s hilarious not because of the utter futility of wearing loupes (with a headlamp even) for a prophylaxis, but because we all have been there. It is part of growing as a dental student and a future dental provider. They will be laughing at the new D-2s next year while I am freaking out about boards.

The D-3 experience is a metamorphosis. You completely evolve into a new type of student. The books and studying still exist, but we don’t really talk about it anymore. Now we discuss whatever tough case we are working on, or help someone out with a denture set-up, or a tip on how to make that surgical guide, and so forth. You find yourself talking about dentistry all the time, for better or for worse. You are slowly changing into a dentist despite still being a student. It is quite remarkable actually. The amount of learning has increased ten-fold while spending less time at school overall. If you blaze through a restoration and finish at 3:30, you don’t have to sit in a lecture hall for another hour, you finish anything that needs to get done lab wise, or you go home.

The D-3 experience still has its frustrations, but it truly is the best year of school. I see why it was rumored to be so. Especially once you get accustomed to your clinic and faculty, it is just plain fun. Now that’s not to say I’m having the time of my life. It is still school, anyway you cut it. I was about ready to gouge my eyes out by the end of finals. The drag of 17 straight weeks with only three official off-days will bear down on anyone. Now I know all you 9-5 jockies are saying: “hey, I do that ALL YEAR, what are you bitching about.” To them I respond: “At least you’re getting paid.” I am paying for this privilege, and paying quite dearly. I don’t remember exactly how much it is, but I think one of my faculty members told me that it costs me 400ish bucks PER AM/PM session to be in this school. That adds up.

But my time is slowly winding down. I was half-way through school back in July, so now I am well on my way, marching downhill, occasionally stumbling, but marching nonetheless. Only four semesters of school stand between me and graduation.

That brings me to a brief topic that I will elaborate on in a future post. What the hell am I going to do when I graduate? Work in a big dental chain? Work as an associate for a dentist planning to retire in few years? Do a GPR? Specialize?

The only one I am 90% confident of skipping at this point is specializing. I honestly prefer general dentistry as a whole over one aspect of dentistry beaten to death.

I am torn though, a GPR seems like a strong move, but do I end up wasting a year of real profit? Is the experience gained worth missing out on getting a large pile of wampum?

You can argue for pretty much any scenario, but I need to have an idea by the summer because that is when you apply for all these things.

Ahh what am I doing? This is my vacation. And dentistry is NOT invited. Have a Merry Christmas/holiday/whatever.