By Amir Treifi, BDS MFDS RCPS (Glasg)
Dental Core Trainee in Oral Surgery.
As a Dental Core Trainee, I am often told to make the most out of these training years as they can provide valuable insights and experiences.
However, it was not until the COVID-19 pandemic that I fully realised how valuable my training really is.
As the number of confirmed COVID cases began to rise every day, there was an increasing number of DNAs in clinics. The country was pre-lockdown, but patients were starting to avoid hospitals if they could. This was shortly followed by a trust-wide email announcing the cessation of Outpatient Centres – which included the Dental Hospital at which I was based.
At this point, the hospital had shut its doors to patients and all appointments had to be cancelled. Redeployment emails began to circulate after this. The DCTs were the first wave of staff to be redeployed and I was assigned to Wythenshawe Hospital alongside some of my DCT colleagues.
Initially, there was a great deal of anxiety as to what we would be expected to do. However, during our induction at Wythenshawe our anxieties were soon addressed.
We were trained in skills such as catheterisation, ECGs and ABGs. Additionally, we underwent patient simulations including managing the unwell patient. During my time at Wythenshawe, I significantly enhanced my medical knowledge by undertaking tasks that most dentists would not routinely perform.
There were challenging aspects to my redeployment. An example would be attempting to retrieve blood from multiple patients who were difficult to bleed.
Overall, it was fulfilling to be assisting the NHS at a time when it was predicted that our Health Service would be stretched to its limits. One distinct memory I have during this time was on my journey home; a passerby began to clap and shout ‘thank you’ towards me. It took me a moment to realise that this act of appreciation was for me, as a healthcare provider.
In terms of my training, conferences were cancelled and study days were replaced with online webinars. The hands-on courses originally scheduled for my training were replaced with computer-based activities.
These changes had significant disadvantages, as dentistry is a very practical job and hands-on training is important in helping us enhance our manual dexterity and operative skills. However, I do understand that training options were limited during this unprecedented time and appreciate the efforts in providing training under these circumstances.
After six weeks working at Wythenshawe, we were called back to the Dental Hospital. Unfortunately, clinics remained cancelled for the DCTs. To help maintain our operative skills, phantom-head sessions were scheduled instead. The remainder of our time was spent triaging patients and performing portfolio enhancing activities such as audits.
There are rumours as to when the Dental Hospital will restart as an outpatient Centre however nothing is confirmed, so for now, we wait.