Clinical Externship Experience in VT - Maeve Daly (UNE '18, District One Membership Committee Member)
One of the most popular aspects of the University of New England College of Dental Medicine’s program is the opportunity for the fourth year students to complete up to two twelve-week rotations in a dental clinic. It is very common across the country for fourth year students to complete clinical rotations outside of the school, but very few are twelve weeks long. Think about it – a semester is sixteen weeks, so we spend almost a full semester working in a clinical setting and learning how dentistry works in the real world.
I was given the chance to spend my summer working for a federally qualified health center (FQHC) in rural Vermont. Based on what I had learned from other dental professionals, I had this preconceived notion that the FQHC was going to be stuck in the stone ages with only one shade of composite and second-hand instruments donated from private practices. Thankfully, that was very, very incorrect.
My first day consisted of getting to know the office, staff, instruments, materials, and the computer system. I had the pleasure of working with three different doctors (preceptors) and four different assistants. Each doctor had a different set of materials and instruments that they preferred to use, so I was able to look through their set ups and make my own kits. The same was true for materials; I got to try three different types of composite and two types of bond throughout the summer, as well as a different polishing system and the Septodent Ultra Safety Plus safety syringe. Turns out that some of my classmates that spent the summer in a private practice didn’t have as many materials available to use!
Throughout the twelve weeks, I was able to improve my speed and clinical knowledge. I started off seeing 3 patients per day and ended with seeing 6-8 patients per day. I also was able to comprehensively treat a few patients; after completing their new patient exam, we were able to work through and complete their treatment plans by the time I completed my rotation. It was super rewarding to have a few patients try extra hard to come in so that we could complete their treatment plans together; I even got a few hugs at the end of the summer!
I was also lucky to have Tuesdays off every week. While it’s not as ideal as what some of my other classmates had (Mondays or Fridays), I tried to make the most of it. Since I’m from Michigan and plan to move back that way after graduation, I wasn’t sure if I would ever live in Vermont again, so I made a bucket list of things to do during my free time. I went hiking, toured museums, and visited a few breweries (check out the Vermont Brewery Challenge)!
Overall, I had a great time and learned a lot about myself, dentistry, and Vermont. I also realized that public health is a potential career path I could happily pursue – especially with the possibility of loan repayments! :-)