10 Top Tips when Applying for Specialist Training

 So you've decided you want to apply to become a specialist.... how can you optimise your chances of getting a place with places so competitive...?

1. Decide Which Pathway you want to Follow

As I have explained in a previous post, there are several routes to becoming a specialist. There are pros and cons of each pathway including personal costs, the different courses availability and posts which have greater academic components. Decide which pathway that works best for you and what might be suitable for your personal situation. 

2. Check out the Relevant Personal Specification

Each dental speciality has its national Personal Specification which lays out the essential and desirable requirements for each dental speciality. Use this like a 'mark scheme' to ensure you fulfil the relevant requirements for your speciality - for example, if there are a certain number of years that you need of experience. Most specialities will ask for at least DCT 2 experience or equivalence, MFDS or MJDF as well as sufficient clinical experience in the speciality that you are applying for.  

3. Get Involved with Audits and Research

You will need to demonstrate audit, research and quality improvement projects as part of your application. To make these projects stand out amongst other candidates I would recommend:
  • Audits need to be have at least 2 cycles i.e. closed loop
  • Projects will need to have to be lead by you or you have made significant contributions and can demonstrate these e.g. data collection, analysis etc.
  • Choosing projects/audits that are relevant to the speciality you are applying to 
  • Have an output from the project such as publications, presentations etc. 

4. Get Published

For shortlisting and to demonstrate academic pursuits you will need some publications. Often, for the highest points, these should be related to the speciality you are applying for, in a peer-reviewed journal and you should be the lead author. However, this can be challenging, especially if you are not in a post where these academic opportunities are more prevalent. Publications can be in other forms, for example:
  • Articles in non-peer reviewed journals or magazines
  • Letters to the editor, book reviews, conference summaries or other pieces 
  • Pieces on blogs (such as this!), or other websites 
  • Protocols, patient information leaflets or SOPs used in your service that you have written or contributed to

5. Get Involved with Presentations and Teaching

These can be oral presentations or poster presentations - either at a local, regional, national or international level. Find out the conferences or events you can attend, particularly the ones that are relevant for your speciality or which fit what you are wanting to present - such as the audit/QIP/research as mentioned above. 

Get involved with teaching too - for students, other trainees, DCPs, non-dental professionals... think imaginatively! 

6. Qualifications 

As mentioned, many specialities will look upon MFDS/MJDF favourably, but also other qualifications such as PG certificates or diplomas especially if they are relevant for the speciality. For example, in dental education, law and ethics, coaching and mentoring, sedation, or in some specialities there are diplomas (such as in Special Care Dentistry). 

7. Speak to Current and Previous Trainees

This will give you an idea of where you might need to work on in your application as well as a first hand account of what it's like to be trainee in the speciality. They might be able to put in touch with people who are in posts you might be interested in and what their career pathway is looking like. Plus they might be able to help give you an idea of what the recruitment process is like!

8. Join Relevant Dental Societies

Each dental speciality will have societies that you can join to access journals, events, conferences, competitions that might interest you. Often there is an element on the shortlisting process which assesses your commitment to the speciality, so joining societies and attending courses/CPD in the speciality will help demonstrate this.

For example, in Special Care Dentistry you can join the British Society of Disability and Oral Health, or the British Society of Gerodontology. 

9. Understand your why!

Probably most important... when you're applying for specialist training know your why first and foremost! You will be focusing on one area of dentistry for the rest of your career and when you are applying the assessors want to really understand your reasoning for applying. Be honest about your reasoning and be yourself! 

10. Don't be Disheartened if you don't get in first time

There is nothing wrong with having to apply several times to get into specialist training. It took me 3 attempts! Learn from the process each time, ask for feedback and keep going! If this is what you truly want, you will get there! The process of recruitment is highly competitive, especially in certain specialities where numbers for trainees each year can be in the single figures! 

Make sure you have a support system surrounding you, make use of your networks and be honest with yourself about what you want! 

If you need support with applications or working out whether speciality training is for you, please do not hesitate to get in touch! I offer one on one Careers Coaching to support you with working out how to make the most of your career! 

Do you have any questions? Please leave them in the comments below

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