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Written By

Andrew Cramb


College of Medicine and Dentistry

Publish Date

25 November 2021

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Lovjeet’s fifth-year rural placement experience

Born and raised a Far North Queensland local, Lovjeet Kalkat is coming to the end of a five year journey. As she prepares to graduate from JCU Dentistry, she shared some of her experiences and learnings from her two rural placements as part of her fifth-year capstone experience.

These past five years have been filled with endless experiences and memories and I have got to learn from the most amazing people which has certainly helped build my confidence as a future dentist.

I consider myself a true local of Far North Queensland, given that I was born in Innisfail and grew up on a rural farming property near Cardwell. I know what it’s like to live in a small town, to firsthand experience shortcomings in the health system and that is partly what inspired me to become a dental health practitioner.

My first placement: a supportive health care community and a different perspective

My first five-month clinical placement was at the Ingham Hospital clinic. I was the only dental student at the placement site and I realised that it was actually the first time I had ever lived away from my family for an extended period. The initial feeling of isolation was overcome, as I enjoyed being able to live and work as an independent person. All the dental staff and other health care workers in the hospital were very welcoming.

One of the major positives was meeting other like-minded students studying medicine who resided with me at the JCU accommodation facility on the hospital grounds. It was here I met people from different faculties and cohorts, which led to countless study, cooking and movie sessions. If I had been living with my family or friends, I wouldn’t have developed so many new friendships.

Lovjeet on placement in Ingham
Ingham Hospital
Left: Lovjeet on placement in Ingham. Right: Ingham Hospital, Lovjeet's first placement location. (Images supplied by Lovjeet).

Overall, the oral health facility was a fantastic environment for me to continue growing my skills. Working in a small rural community-based site suited me and I’d strongly recommend it as you gain insight from a different perspective when you’re working rurally. I had exposure to seeing and managing a high load of emergency-walk-in toothache and ‘facial swelling’ patients on a daily basis and was also fortunate enough to see and treat patients from varying demographics, including treating patients from the ages two to 95!

My second placement: a time to learn, grow, and strive toward my potential as a dentist

My second clinical placement was at the Innisfail Hospital Dental clinic for four months. At this placement I experienced a consistent variety of general dentistry; primarily including a high volume of dental extractions and removable prosthodontic cases. With the knowledgeable insight from the resident lab technician, I was able to learn and expand on my clinical knowledge to provide successful removable prostheses (dentures) to my patients. I was also able to participate in General Anaesthesia (GA) sessions in which extensive dental treatment was completed for many children and adults who were not suitable for treatment under normal conditions.

During my time at JCU in Cairns and through my clinical placements, I was fortunate to have been surrounded by such wonderful supportive staff, supervisors and mentors that have helped shape me into the person I am today.

Working in the public sector has taught me professionalism, how to work effectively in a team environment and enhance my interpersonal and communication skills, which are vital when addressing the patient’s needs and complaints.  With that, I would like to express my sincerest gratitude to everyone that I have worked with during my time in dental school; the experiences gained have not only enhanced my clinical skills but have also enabled me to learn, grow, as well as strive to reach my full potential as a dentist.

Wooroonooran National Park, Innisfail: a fantastic place for Lovjeet to explore while on her second placement.

Image credit: James Cook University

Ready and eager to start my career…

As a graduated dentist, I will look to do my part in serving members in the local, rural community to provide essential dental health services.  I think it is important to deliver oral health promotion and education, and provide optimal oral health care and clinical services to patients of all ages, especially targeting the younger generations to integrate healthy oral habits into their daily routine. I have had the chance to partake in several oral health promotion activities (i.e. going into schools and providing oral health education to young children) through JCU cairns in years 1-4 but also at my placement sites in 5th year.

In the future, I see myself growing into the role of a general Dentist rather than specialising. I endeavour to gain more experience, learn from my senior peers and expand on my clinical knowledge through professional development.

My advice for students who are preparing to go on placement…

Clinically, it may be a crucial point in one’s development as students are exposed to a higher number of patients and can have much more one-on-one time with their clinical supervisors and seniors. Taking advantage of this could bring about growth in experience and skills.

I advise students to enjoy their downtime when on rural placements. It is easy to get engrossed in the clinical side of things, but I think it's very important to have a good work-life-study balance. Maintaining this balance can be key to managing stress levels and avoiding burnout. Going into a rural community can be challenging, so go in with an open mind, take some time to learn a little bit about the community you’re going to and organise yourself and learn what activities may interest you!

Thank you Lovjeet for sharing your experiences on your capstone rural placements. With over 2,000 clinical hours of training, it’s no wonder our JCU Dentistry graduates are so highly sought after.

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