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The plight of Dental Students

By Dr. Ramsha Aijaz

“Am I done with struggle?” Thought that came in mind after getting admission in government medical university.

“No, it’s just the beginning,” something within me answered back.

Thinking about my glittering future when I stepped in university premises, I came across different world then I imagined. Hall was filled with happy, newly inducted students. The state of oblivion was clear from their faces. They were completely unaware of the struggles they had to go through in coming days.

The initial two years were totally theoretical based. Teachers came to just read PowerPoint presentations, without even being bothered as if anyone was listening to them or not. Many of them used to deliver lectures in such boring fashion that students become unable to connect dots. It was quest to understand what was being said about and how it could be of any use to us.

The attendance was never an issue. Students either bunk lectures or remain absent for weeks without informing administrators.

Course outline was very extensive. The theory based topics were pretty much same, both for BDS and MBBS students in first two years. The latter years of curriculum would focus on the area of selected practice.

After two years of hardwork, I was finally able to get my hands on experience on my first patients. That day would always stay in my memories. I was both nervous and excited at the same time. I prepared the unit with full enthusiasm and seated the patient. My hands were shaking because I had seen the demonstration of surgical 3rd molar extraction before that.  Just a sight of mouth full of blood for the first time gave me goose bumps. It was a mobile tooth and the patient was so irritated that the patient wanted to pull it out by hand. I loaded the cartridge with trembling hands. Infiltrate needle scared me more than the patient. I was fortunate enough to be supervised by head of department. He gave me full confidence and somehow I managed to infiltrate the tooth. It was a relaxing moment for me as I was half done. I was then, handed over a plier. With cold hands but properly guided the mobile tooth was finally extracted. The extraction was more like a victory for me. It felt as if I had conquered the universe. Patient was happy and so was I.

This experience was undoubtedly a life time one. But unfortunately head of the departments seldom visited OPDs (Outdoor Patient Departments) and not everyone got the opportunity to work under their supervision. Due to this reason OPDs were poorly managed. There was a long queue of dentists, awaited to treat patients. Only the fortunate ones, then would get the chance. Getting a dental unit was another struggle. After roaming around the OPD from one corner to the next, one would finally get lucky. Then came the struggle to acquire autoclaved, sanitized instruments. The lengthy turmoil would lead towards a whole mess, converting learning experience into exhaustion.

The journey of immense struggle didn’t end here. Hundreds of students, graduate every year. Fresh graduates had to suffer from a lot of things in initial period of professional life. While many of graduate lack clinical skills, many were forced to do low income dental jobs. Such situation made dental graduates disheartened and depressed. This would eventually incline many new dentists to shift their field of profession.

Being a dental graduate, I believed that this profession was very delicate and every student should get individual attention from start. During academic years students should be divided in small groups lead by their supervisors. There should be tutorials for topic discussed in class and every student should take part in it for their better learning. Syllabus should be restricted to dental subjects only so that students focused better in the area of interest. Head of the departments must visit OPDs on daily basis and should allot supervisor for every single student.

Supervisors should get proper training of how to be a good communicator and counselor for their career planning and handling work pressure. They must be easily approachable and enthusiastic about teaching their student. Student-Mentor should be an utmost priority.

December 18, 2019

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Dental is part of the Medical News Group of publications which in 1968 became the pioneer of medical journalism in Pakistan. Medical News is the only periodical in Pakistan which has 3 simultaneous editions from Karachi, Islamabad and online.

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