I&I Interview: Manchester Dental Students’ Society co-president Sara Member
The driving force behind the creation of I&I was the belief that the world of dental indemnity needs to be more transparent.
By providing a way to easily compare indemnity policies and providers, we’re trying to increase access to the information dentists want and provide a clearer picture across the board.
As a dentist myself, I know how hard it can be to decipher the insurance jargon and make sure you’re choosing the best value policy that meets your needs. I know many colleagues have had similar feelings.
However, I wanted to find out how the next generation of dentists feel about this and get a sense of their understanding of the dental indemnity landscape. After all, you need a policy in place to register with the GDC and carry out electives, so it’s important that dental students feel confident in navigating through the various policies and providers.
To find out more about this, I spoke to Sara Member, a fourth year dental student and co-president of the Manchester Dental Students’ Society (MDSS).
Sara, why are you pursuing a career in dentistry?
I always knew that I wanted to go into healthcare and have a job that definitely involved helping people and making a difference on a day-to-day basis.
After doing work experience in both medicine and dentistry, I moved more towards the latter because I liked the idea of forming longer lasting relationships with my patients and I liked being hands-on.
At the moment I’m not sure exactly what route through dentistry I want to take. My mind changes every few weeks whenever I meet another inspiring tutor who has had lots of interesting experiences!
When you think about your future career, what are your thoughts and feelings about the complaints and litigation side of things?
I think it’s on a lot of students minds, especially the more they become involved with the social media side of dentistry and the more you become exposed to the negative but realistic parts of being a dentist.
When you think about that side of things, it is scary and overwhelming. There’s a big wide world of dentistry out there where you’re not protected by dental school or your tutor.
Having said that, it’s important to try and not worry too far into the future or about things that haven’t happened yet.
At this stage of your dental schooling, do you feel you would know how to deal with a complaint as a dentist?
We have short modules on topics like this and lectures that touch upon it.
These are good for helping you to understand the theory of what to do if you get a complaint, but I am worried that, in reality when you have an angry patient sat in front of you or on the phone, it’s going to be very different.
It’s good that we have the basics in our head, but the practical reality of it is probably very different.
What do you know about dental indemnity and how easy do you find it to get information about that?
I must admit, my knowledge in this area is quite basic. It mainly comes from talks from indemnity providers that come into university to do short sponsored lectures with us.
From my understanding, your indemnity provider should be your first port of call if you need advice or if you get a complaint and you need legal help. But that’s basically all I know.
How has the areas of complaints, litigation and indemnity been covered as part of your curriculum?
It’s quite a small part of the curriculum.
We have one module called ‘the general practice’ which involves an assignment in your third year where you’re given different scenarios that might happen to you as a dentist, which you work through in groups and with your tutor.
As part of that you do hear in detail from your tutor who has been in general practice about how they dealt with situations, what they did well and what went wrong, etc., which is helpful.
There’s very little education around the wider business side of being a dentist. Dental schools are very careful in how they approach the financial and money element of dentistry.
A lot of students find their advice and information on these kinds of non-clinical subjects from third parties and social media, such as webinars on Facebook and Instagram and Dentinal Tubules.
In you role as co-president of the MDSS, do you have any sense of how your fellow students feel about this and what their knowledge level would be?
In general, it hasn’t been something that lots of students have been asking for advice from the society on.
However, recently we sent out a survey and asked what kinds of things people wanted to hear about over the next semester.
Some of the things that came up, mainly from students in the later years of their degree, was that they wanted to know more about how to talk about money and how to deal with angry patients.
Finally, is there anything more that you think people, such as indemnity providers, universities or governing bodies, can be doing to increase students knowledge and confidence in the area of complaints and litigation?
What would be useful would be for all of the jargon around this kind of thing to be explained more clearly.
I know there are different types of indemnity, but exactly what all the terms and words mean isn’t clear and I think it’s likely that other students feel the same.
It also feels as if you hear new terms all the time. So even if you start to feel like you understand, you can then suddenly hear some new language or jargon, and then feel like you’re back at square one.
I’m not sure who would be responsible for this, but it would be good to have an open, clear and honest approach to how it all works.
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