So you want to quit dentistry?

By Dr Dhru Shah
Thursday June 20th 2019

Ever since I wrote about the passion and ever since I suggested that passion can be reignited, I have had a multitude of messages from so many people, asking about how they can reignite their passion. Invariably, most of these are people in dentistry, because that is the space in which Dentinaltubules operates and the industry in which I am known.

I have been exploring why these people would consider quitting dentistry and why they have lost their passion. The themes revolved around more or less the same reasons for which they wish to quit. Those reasons include the feeling that they are not good enough, the fear of litigation, the stress, the inability to find enough time with patients, or the negativity that they feel is rife in the profession. Whilst there is no denying that it is a tough profession, particularly with the current economic situation, and for some, the current remunerative system is not helpful,  we must also know that there is a way to reignite your passion.

Yet, on the other hand, I am constantly contacted by dental professionals who are extremely passionate about what they do and cannot wait to get into work the next day. I am constantly messaged by enthusiastic professionals sharing the amazing work they do and the pride that they express in their work outcomes. 

The question I ask is this: why is it that there are some dentists who are very passionate about what they do, who love what they do and who somehow seem to be in flow AND on the other hand why are there those who are contacting me with such reasons as I have identified above.

The answer lies in the work I have been doing over the last many months on understanding passion. Those dentists who are in flow, who are developing (despite all the challenges) and who are genuinely finding the opportunities are ticking all the right boxes for passion. They are embodying the very facets of passion (which I identified in a separate blog). 

Just as a recap I will list them here

  • Purpose - Values and motivational goals
  • Intent (Mindset)  - Education, community and leadership
  • Identity
  • Environment
  • High intensity - flow and emotions

Today I will explore one of those characteristics - community.

It is under the main facet of intent. Passionate people very carefully select the community that they associate and become part of.  It is well known that one becomes an average of the 5% of the people that they hang out with and passionate people select this community very carefully.  They knowingly or unknowingly, identify the values of a community and ingrain themselves into that community because it identifies with their values.

When I say community - I don't just mean a local community -  I mean organisations, online communities where you hang out, and the work community you hang out with every day.

DentinalTubules is an organisation offering a community of dental professionals who are humble, helpful, inspiring and enthusiastic:

Humble -  It is a community of passionate dental professionals who constantly thrive to help uplift each other to be the best that they can be with humility and respect. 

Helpful -  The ethos of the organisation is to operate in a culture of positivity and support to help each other.

Inspiring - There are very talented clinicians, who are happy to share their knowledge in order to inspire the others.  Take the example of Dr Mahul Patel who has openly shared his knowledge through the online videos, through the study clubs and through the PREParation_EVOlution courses he regularly runs. He continues to inspire professionals to improve themselves. Yes in true humble fashion, he is also constantly learning, attending study clubs and lectures at our congress to improve himself.

Enthusiastic - The Tubulites (members of DentinalTubules) are very positive, enthusiastic individuals. Perhaps even more than enthusiastic - they are passionate. This inherently brings about positivity and optimism as a part of the package. 

These values are paramount in attracting passionate dental professionals to DentinalTubules. They identify with these values and connect with members of the community. They then immerse themselves in the community activities of DentinalTubules which include the study clubs (which are educational meetups), the courses, the Congress and the various educational events. The Congress is not just a CPD course but 2 days of power, passion and immersion.  These activities generate a deeper connection. These individuals make a commitment to this community. 

That is why these professionals are willing to invest in an annual subscription as well as embrace all the other facets of passion. 

On the other hand, I note that many of those who contacted me wanting to quit came through social media. They have identified themselves with social media communities (many in particular through Facebook groups). I can understand that it is easy to join these online communities as Facebook is free and everyone is on it. However,  passionate individuals have identified that "everyone" does not mean that these are the right communities. Dental groups on Facebook (in my humble opinion) are communities which have slowly decayed into argumentative, negative and generally unhelpful places. In addition to that the stories of litigation, the fear, the stress are constantly reiterated to a point where the truth gets exaggerated even more. (say a truth a million times and its impact will be felt a million times). Don't get me wrong, social media has generated a lot of positive connections for many and perhaps helped sell out courses for many too (that is what a mass audience would do). Social media is just that - social. Pictures of your fun days. It is not an environment to foster positive education, and definitely not the place to foster passionate communities.

If you want to be passionate, then you have to be careful to decipher the type of information coming through social media and decipher how to interpret that information.  If not correctly or appropriately deciphered, then it is an environment where passion can be destroyed and all the negative vibes can set in. Deciphering is a massive task that will take undue focus and energy. That focus and energy can be used much more wisely in fostering your passion, rather than deciding what is passion. 

Those individuals who want to quit, spend a lot of time scrolling through their timelines. They are making a commitment to the online social media community - which may be one of the reasons why their passion is being destroyed

Going back to the original question: so you want to quit dentistry? First, have you thought about the kind of community you will invest in and choose? and what kind of commitment will you invest in immersing yourself in that community?

More on the other facets of passion another day!

3 Comments

20/06/2019

Very true. I often wondered what on earth I was doing with my life in my first few years out of dental school, when the stresses and pressures were at their most onerous. It’s only since engaging with Tubules that I have discovered the right community to be part of, to measure myself against and to stand on their broad shoulders. Now I have rediscovered my passion for my profession. Thanks for getting me involved!

21/06/2019

You are the average of the five people who spend the most time with. You are probably the average of the 5 dentists who speak with/listen to/watch the most - so to get your community of practice right is so key!

04/07/2019

We often read on social media the disparity between the older generation of dentists and the new, but what about the very newly qualified generation? Have you ever taken a moment to step into their shoes?

I sit here today reading an excellent piece written by Dhru about finding your passion in dentistry but I feel disheartened because I don’t believe many colleagues fully comprehend the challenges us new ones face.

We’re stuck in a portal between the social media generation of dentists having been qualified for approximately 5 years + living the supposed highlife of money/minimal mistakes and the very nearly retired who are grumbling about the state of dentistry today.

So how does a wide eyed newly graduate feel? One word. Confused. To get through dental school and all it’s challenges takes strength and passion. You have to really truly want it, and whilst studying you envisage this golden chalice at the end. Often what drives you is an imagined life of financial security, happy patients and a welcoming profession. You’ve wanted this for so long you just can’t wait to finish.

Alas, you qualify and in fact it’s a dark lonely place. You realise dentistry is a very cut throat profession where not many are there to lend you a hand. No one really guides you, principles don’t have the time because they’re concerned about over heads. You can’t turn to fellow peers because they’re in the same boat as you. The ones who’ve qualified a few years ago are on a crusade to prove all the older generation wrong that they don’t have a minute for you and that very same older generation doesn’t have time for you because ‘you’re wet behind the ears and need to work hard within the NHS for the next 10 years because that’s what they did’. The fear of GDC and litigation means you either work extremely defensively or you’re too scared to ask about failures and discuss them in an open safe environment.

You sit flicking through social media at the “amazing” work done by fellow colleagues only few years ahead of you wondering where you’re going wrong. Why doesn’t your work look like that? You read comments from the elder generation saying these new dentists don’t show failures - but I don’t see anyone showing failures? So all we ever see is the business of dentistry. Ego inflation, self promotion and cliques of dentists forming.

Everyone talks about the importance of finding a mentor, but no one actually tells you how to find one. Or guides you to finding one. Everyone tells you how important it is to learn from your mistakes but no one shares their mistakes.

Dentistry is a lonely profession, I have colleagues in despair barely 6 months into associate life completely lost. Do we follow the paths of our celebrity colleagues pursing the life of social media? Or do we follow our experienced colleagues - who sometimes won’t even discuss advances/changes and are stuck in their own ways.

I’ve been very fortunate and found Dentinal tubules. It has helped me immensely in trying to find a footing in this dark forest. I have made friends with kind and passionate colleagues who are there to walk you through the difficult days and are willing to share their cases.

Being a new associate is one of the hardest challenges I’ve ever had to face. Thank you tubules for helping me through these difficult days and connecting me to the most beautiful people.

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