It didn’t take long after graduation to realize that my education had only just begun. It’s funny that a dentist doesn’t “work”, but instead we “practice”. Maybe not the most comforting phrase for a patient, but the truth is, we are life long learners. And with the landscape rapidly changing, to be successful and effective in our field, continuing education (CE) is more important than ever. But I’ve recently realized that for a new dentist like me, the time and expenses of continue education can be a big burden.
Over the past year, I’ve been introduced to programs like Dawson, Pankey, Spear, OBI, LVI, just to mention a few. These programs specialize in providing continuous learning to dentists. Each has its own unique philosophy in an attempt to differentiate themselves in a sea of growing competitors. And each has a very distinct following. You might have met dentists who describe themselves as a “Pankey dentist” or an “LVI trained dentist”. Some programs focus on biomechanics, some on aesthetics, and some on just about every aspect of dentistry.
After sitting in an info session for a few of these organizations, I realized I have several weak spots in areas that they specialize in. Yet the biggest thing I walked away from after attending these info sessions was that I was not in the position to be able to afford to attend their classes. And while they offer great incentives for new dentists, I’m just not sure if I can budget out a large chunk of my income for CE at this point in my career. Moreover, if you’ve been following my past blog entries you’ll know that I’m a bit of a commitment-phobe, making it hard for me to commit to just one of these programs, as most involve multiple courses over a long period of time.
Luckily over the past year, I have taken advantage of continuing education programs that are often free to a new dentist and don’t require such a long time commitment. CE offered by state dental society, labs I work with and even my great malpractice insurance company (shameless plug for EDIC) have allowed me the freedom of exploring the various realms of continuing education at little or no cost. Along with taking advantage of free/reduced CE, getting involved in a local study club has been a great way to learn in a group setting without a big-time or money commitment.
What I’ve found over the past year is the CE is an essential part of any dentist’s career. I’ve also found that a really good CE does cost a lot. Most dentists I’ve talked to set aside yearly amounts of what they can spend on CE. And many even use CE as a tax write off. My advice before investing large sums of money into a CE program early in your career is to talk to other dentists who have gone through the program. Talk to you dentists who have done completely different programs. Have an idea of what you want your practice philosophy to be, and what areas you may want to focus in on. And as always, find deals! Whether it’s at a dental convention or a discount through your dental society, it seems like there’s always a discount of some sort being offered by many of these programs.
I know the time will come when I’ll be able to afford to take the plunge into some really great educational programs. Until that time comes, I will continue to do my homework on the various programs out there that are available and take advantage of the more affordable courses that I come across. If you have any personal experiences you’d like you to share or any pearls of wisdom regarding continuing education, please share in the comment section below!