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News Bulletin : ADA News Bulletin December 2011
18 DECEMBER 20 11 INCREASING DENTAL WORK EXPERIENCES IN THE RURAL ENVIRONMENT Many dentists practising in rural and remote areas have very close involvement in their local communities. Offering work experience positions to school students from local high schools is a role often accepted. But why should we participate? The ratio of dentists to population in rural and remote areas is very poor. Recruitment and retention of dentists in both private practices and public dental services has long been a major difficulty. However, there is some good news. Firstly, tertiary education and training is increasing in the bush. Secondly, looking to our own rural communities for potential professionals and auxiliaries has been shown to be the most effective long-term approach to solving the rural manpower problem. Thirdly, there will be many more new graduates in the pipeline who could have successful and valuable careers filling the dental workforce gaps in rural and remote Australia rather than further clogging up the capital cities. We rural dentists can assist that process by 'growing our own' through routinely offering worthwhile work experience and encouragement and support to interested young people. What can dentists offer? Work experience can be offered in both private practices and public dental services. Some local collaboration may be useful to expand students' choices. It might be possible too, to form a working relationship with the careers counsellors in your local secondary schools and to discuss with them the work experiences you are prepared to offer students who are interested in dental assisting, dental technology, dental hygiene, dental therapy and dentistry. WHAT MAKES A GOOD WORK EXPERIENCE PLACEMENT Who do we accept and where do we get guidance on what makes a good work experience placement? Who you take on, will, to a large degree, be set by the schools but if you are positive and encouraging, then students with a special interest in the profession may well present themselves. It is almost a given that the timing of the experience will be set by the schools; so flexibility is essential as is some form of agenda/ curriculum to guide the student's activities. It's also critical that your dental team is happily on board to maximize the experience. A bored, aimless student is a lost opportunity. We can all recount our own stories and those of our colleagues who have successfully recruited staff or encouraged a bright young person to enter our profession either through work experience programs or simply by enthusiastically chatting with them while they're in the chair about dentistry and their dreams for a career. It is critical, both in our own interests and those of our community, and for rural sustainability that we take our opportunities to promote the full range of careers within dental practice. Who knows, you might be responsible for launching a stellar career, or maybe better still, starting a succession plan for your own practice? DENTAL SCHOOLS ENCOURAGE RURAL TRAINING All the newer regionally-based dental schools are interested in encouraging more rural students and providing more rural training opportunities. Furthermore, all our dental schools are searching for suitable locations to provide their students with rewarding rural experiences. This, in turn, is increasing the demand for experienced rural dentists and dental team members who are prepared to support undergraduate training in various ways. In other words, there is a growing need for far more integration and interaction between the city and country; and an opportunity to enhance technical knowledge and expertise alongside a community-based understanding of what will work in the bush to improve oral health. As more universities move to a post graduate entry standard for dentistry, the length of training and the age of graduation are increasing. Getting in early to put your case for rural practice might bear fruit. Though, you could be in for a long haul if your disciple charts this particular academic path. You might be keen to assist a young person to have a dental career, in which case it would be helpful to be a font of information about the choice of dental schools and the courses they offer; their student selection criteria; where the training is provided; potential scholarships, accommodation details and living away from home allowances. Your professional association, the Australian Dental Association, will be a good reference point with its website being the starting point. Having people with the correct contacts in the locations where the education is offered is an advantage. All in all, by offering work experiences and promoting career opportunities you can make a valuable contribution to successful careers for rural school students; and just as importantly, by 'growing your own', you will contribute to the long-term sustainability of dental services in your area and in rural Australia. Michael Jonas On behalf of the ADA Rural Oral Health Advisory Panel Rural dental practice: 'GROWING OUR OWN' committee report L to R: Dr Jasmine Lam (Sydney University graduate with three years' experience) with Maryann Whitton (Dental Assistant) and Dimity Woods (work experience student).
ADA News Bulletin November 2011
ADA News Bulletin February 2012