Getting the Most out of Continuing Education
This week’s blog is taken from an article Dr. Feinberg wrote for the Ninth District Dental Society Bulletin; Volume 77 No 2; May, 1993.
1. Decide what you want to learn.
a. General overview courses in a wide range of fields are worthwhile because they give basic knowledge about the types of treatment that are available and the latest developments in the field. Dr. Joel Glover, former ADA Council on Dental Education chairman, believes that “only by keeping up with scientific research in conjunction wit
h the advancements made in maintaining oral health, can dentists gain a broad understanding of basic science application to provide superior dental care.” Today’s patients have high dental IQs. They want their doctors to be up-to-date and able to answer their questions.
b. Choose your niche. As practice management expert Linda Miles explains, “trying to be all things to all patients clinically is a disaster”. There is simply too much knowledge in Dentistry to be able to do everything well. A good general dentist is proficient in a few areas of dental practice, and makes good use of specialists for deficient areas. Linda Miles offers excellent advice: “Decide what you like to do mos
t and become the very best that you can possibly be in that particular arena.”
c. Don’t take too many courses on different techniques of accomplishing the same outcome. Information overload can be a disaster. Some dentists change their techniques for a particular treatment with every new course. “Not only are the doctors frustrated by too many changes,” says Linda Miles, “the staff and patients are totally confused.”
2. Choose courses wisely. Make the most of your time and dollars by choosing courses that will give you the information, skills and techniques that you need. The ADA’s Council on Dental Education has several suggestions for choosing the best courses:
a. Start with course brochures and promotional materials. More information about the course can be obtained from the sponsoring organization and colleagues who have already taken the course.
b. Determine the program’s “sophistication level” to make sure that the course is targeted at your level of knowledge and skills.
c. Know what you are looking for and what you hope to gain from the course.
d. Determine the speaker’s qualifications and experience.
e. Find out from colleagues if the course offered is worthwhile. Dental society officers and staff can be tremendously helpful.
3. Get the maximum benefit from attending the course.
a. Go to the course with a high expectation of learning. As Linda Miles observes, “people get out of the course exactly what they expect”.
b. Take copious notes. “It is a known fact,” says Linda Miles, “that one loses 75-95% of the information presented in a course 24 hours afterward if notes have not been taken”.
c. Do not take the speaker’s word at face value. The speaker’s prestige and reputation do not make his or her word gospel. Recognize the reality that some speakers have hidden financial and political agendas; and some have not thoroughly tested the materials and techniques that they advocate. As Richard Simonsen, editor of Quintessence International explains, “for many clinicians it appears that, `try it and you’ll see how well it works’ is enough clinical proof of a new material or technique. But if the new material or technique is used before peer-reviewed, clinical studies are published, the patients and these clinicians are unknowing guinea pigs in a huge unethical experiment”.
d. Evaluate what the speaker is saying. Does it make scientific sense? Does it make good theory, but poor clinical practice? Does the speaker back up statements with convincing evidence, such as numerous cases with before and after X-rays or valid studies with clinically significant results?
e. Recognize that there is no panacea for all dental problems. Some experts in a particular treatment modality, such as implants or bonding, present cases that go beyond the limitations of that modality. Be aware of manufacturer’s recommendations for the use of materials.
f. Always ask questions. There is an old saying that the only stupid question is the question that has not been asked. Never be afraid that your colleagues will look down on you for asking a “stupid” question. Chances are good that they would like to ask the same question themselves.
4. Recognize that attending a course does not translate into instant proficiency. A weekend course in complex techniques or surgical procedures cannot possibly give the participant adequate clinical experience. Becoming proficient in these areas may require more education or participatory supervision.
[Information taken from:
“Lifelong Learning: Options in Continuing Education”; by Tamara Strom and ADA Council on Dental Education JADA; Vol 116, June, 1988.
“Editorial: A Teacher’s Responsibility”, by Dr. Richard Simonen; Quintessence International; Volume 22, No. 12, December, 1991.
“How to Get the Most Out of CE Courses”, by Linda Miles; Dental Management, June, 1989.]