During our third year, we rotate through the different specialty clinics at Penn. It's a great way for us to gain insight into different specialties & to get to know the residents. As I'm slowly making up my mind to go into general practice, I'm paying more attention to those special cases... the ones you definitely want treated by a specialist.
One of the things we have to do is practice root canal therapy on extracted teeth. We schedule individual slots to go in and practice the entire procedure from start to finish. Couple of weeks ago, I went in for my session to practice on my extracted tooth. I had filed the canal, I had obturated (putting these rubber gutta percha cones inside), and I took the X-ray.
You want the entire canal radio opaque, which means the entire canal has been filled with CaOH and gutta percha. My radiograph showed my tooth had multiple voids. So... like a grudgey bear, I pulled out the entire thing and started over. Look- I even took a picture so I could send it to friends accompanied by a :-(
And then this past week, I was assisting an endo resident. The initial radiograph hinted at a tricky case. The roots were twisty dancing all over in that bone. Same thing- after a solid 30 minutes of filing, the resident filled the tooth with gutta percha + CaOH and took the radiograph... which showed a little tiny void.
He went back and pulled it out, got back to work. He simply said, "I'm not happy with this and I can do a better job." No whining, no pouty face. He just went back at it.
More so than anything, I want to learn the right attitude as a clinician. While in dental school, I get to learn on someone else's dime! Whatever I do has no financial impact on me, as long as I'm a student. The mindset I develop in dental school will follow me throughout my lifetime and I want to get started on the right foot. I know my hand skills will continue improving (and get faster please) but starting off with the right attitude, is so important. I don't want to get sloppy and lazy and greedy. I don't want to think my time is more valuable than my patient's.
Last week, I gave a tour to pre-dental students interviewing at Penn Dental. Someone asked me what my least favorite thing was, then of course what my favorite thing was. The latter question was easy: the people who make this school wonderful. I'm surrounded by wonderfully inspired people who want to do the right thing, who are in this for the right reasons. My colleagues are ambitious, driven, and kind. And seeing this resident simply go back to re-do this entire thing... I was able to reflect on my own hastiness the week before.
And as a kind of a natural corollary, our group leader Dr. N said this last week: "don't surround yourself with ding-a-lings."