Shadowing a Doctor

August 3, 2016


Work experience allows you to gain valuable insight into any profession and help you either confirm your interest and suitability to this career or realise that this is not the right path for you.

If you are considering a career in dentistry, work experience is something that should be right at the top of your list of things to do before you apply to dental school. It takes hard work and a genuine interest in oral health and your patients’ welfare to be successful as a dentist. You do not want to graduate from a long and challenging dental programme only to realise that you are not cut out for this profession after all. 

The benefits of work experience

Work experience is also a crucial component of your application to dental school. Most universities require all candidates to have a minimum amount of work experience to be eligible for their programme. And even those schools that do not state this as one of their eligibility criteria will still consider work experience when deciding between two equally talented applicants.

Another major benefit of having work experience is that it lends credence to your personal statement. Your personal statement needs to demonstrate your passion for dentistry and for helping other people. It needs to show that you have explored this career and that you have made an informed choice. Obtaining relevant experience substantiates this claim and also gives you the confidence to provide insightful replies at your dental school interview.

What does work experience involve and where can you get it?

Work experience can include a wide range of opportunities in dental as well as non-dental settings.

Dental work experience can be gained by shadowing dentists and doing a dental placement in a foreign country. A minimum of 2 weeks experience in a General Dental Practice is a compulsory requirement for most universities. It is best to try and split this between two or even more establishments as it allows you to get a more rounded view of how different facilities operate. Your time at a general dental practice will typically include a combination of administration tasks as well as the opportunity to shadow dentists as they carry out various dental treatments.

Other settings to consider include practices that specialise in orthodontics, private dentistry, community dental practice, dental laboratories and hospital dentistry.

Non-dental settings

Non-dental settings could include any kind of volunteer work in any organisation even if it is not directly related to dentistry. Non-dental work experience helps you develop several valuable transferable skills such as communication and interpersonal skills, working as part of a team, critical thinking and empathising with the less fortunate, all of which are essential traits for dentists.

When you are considering work experience, don’t limit yourself to getting just enough to meet the school’s minimum requirement. Having work experience in a variety of settings can give you a better overview of how various areas of dentistry work together to provide effective treatment.



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Gap Medics provides year-round hospital work experience for people aged 16 and over. Our shadowing placements offer a unique insight into the work of doctors, nurses, midwives, and dentists – helping students to focus their career aspirations before embarking upon medical training.