How to Plan CPD after Dental School
Hello and welcome to another episode of the weekly mentorship series by Noobie Dentist Podcasts. Today I want to talk about CPD (CE) and how you should plan your continuing dental education after dental school.
As we finish dental school and enter the workforce, for the first time we encounter the absence of a structured curriculum-based-learning that we got used to throughout our schooling and higher education. We begin to see lots of short courses and dental programs being advertised everywhere, each claiming to be the best. Some of our friends join new courses with up and coming clinicians while others join traditionally popular ones. Looking at all this, we tend to fall into a pattern of haphazardly taking one course after another without any long term aim in mind. We don’t really have a plan or awareness of the type of courses we should be taking to further our career.
So I thought, why not sit down and give you some advice about planning your CPD education this week?
Have A Long Term Plan
The first thing I want you to know is that when planning your CPD education, you need to have some long term plan in mind. Dr. Gordon J. Christensen is a world-renowned dentist who writes the Clinician’s Choice papers every year. I mention him because I heard him say on a podcast a few years ago that he has a habit that every year around new year’s time, he actually writes down his CPD plan for the upcoming year. To see somebody with that much experience in dentistry, who has taken almost every course available, still taking out some time to plan a CPD program year after year really made an impression on me.
If you are a new graduate or even practicing for a couple years, the first thing you need to do is to lay out a one-year, two year, or three year plan for your CPD education.
How To Know Which CPD Courses To Take
A lot of people wonder “what courses should I take? Should I focus on the basics or should I pick a specialty within dentistry? Should I pick surgery, orthodontics or aesthetic dentistry and focus on that?” Well, I think that just comes down to what your career goals are and the type of dentist you want to be; whether you want to have a good level of competency in all areas or you want to have a niche or subspecialty within general dentistry. Regardless, you should look at the type of practice you are in, the type of patients you are treating and the type of work you are doing on a day-to-day basis.
The first school of thought clinicians have when planning their CPD is focusing on the basics. A good basic course in endodontics, composites, or oral surgery will help you to cement your core skills successfully. As you complete these basic courses and apply them in your clinical practice, you may realize where your interests actually lie and what kind of procedures you enjoy doing in dentistry. In subsequent CPD, you can move beyond the basics and focus on other areas of dentistry you excel at.
The second school of thought is more of a business or entrepreneurial mindset. If you are already working as an associate in a private practice, you can try and find out what kind of procedures your principal dentist does not undertake, and focus on those areas instead. So if your boss, principal dentist or fellow associate dentists enjoys doing orthodontic treatment, but do not practice implant surgery or wisdom tooth extraction, this could be a big opportunity for you. You can add value to the practice by getting in-house referrals and treating those patients. It’ll be a good return on investment for you because there won’t be much competition for that scope of work, within the practice. It’s a great way to build your patient base and your books, and move to higher production as well.
So think about these options and make sure you have a long term plan. Write down your yearly goals. You could say, “this year I want to focus on ortho, the next year I want to focus on composites, then the next could be photography, case presentation, patient communication and so on.” Don’t neglect communication skills because it’s a really important aspect of dentistry that a lot of clinicians often overlook.
You Need A Structured Learning Program
The next thing I want to talk about is the importance of a structured learning program. One of my early mentors told me that a course that’s under $1000 is not worth taking, and I think there’s definitely some value in that. If you go to a weekend course for a few hundred dollars, you end up watching somebody else present their case and photographs without getting the in-depth knowledge and understanding of what’s actually required to fulfill those procedures. So taking a structured program and spending money on a year-long or modular-based course will: (1) keep some structure in your learning and be accountable that way and, (2) you are likely to get more value out of what people teach in these courses. There are lots of influencers on YouTube, Instagram and other social media talking about various things they can teach you if you follow them, but honestly, you will not get any value added education unless you spend good money on a structured learning program.
To summarise, (1) make a plan. Make sure you have an idea of what you want to focus on. Is it learning the basics and then expanding on your interests, or is it finding areas within dentistry that your fellow associates aren’t focusing on? (2) Find out which areas you can add value to, in your practice and build patients that way. (3) Make sure you invest in good quality CPD structured learning programs
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Thank you and I’ll see you next week!