One of the first tasks third year medical students learn when they begin clinical rotations is how to request a specialist consultation. The referrals to specialists (e.g., cardiologists, internists, urologists, ENT, etc.) request the specialists to use their knowledge and expertise to ‘take charge” of patient care within their realm. More often than not the medical student will not be involved in the care of that
patient after the referral has been made. Wiser students maintain follow-up with the patient and the specialist to enhance their learning experience. By graduation, medical students know how to communicate and interact with specialists.
Third year dental students become primary caregivers to patients in a variety of diagnostic, restorative, and specialty clinics. One of the primary goals of dental school curriculum is to provide basic experience with specialty care (e.g., perio, endo, oral surgery, pedo, etc.) so the new dentist may clinically care for their patients in a general dental office setting. Whereas dental students receive limited experience with specialty care, they are not as adept as their medical student counterparts at managing the inter-specialty (interdisciplinary) needs of their patients by the time they graduate. This may produce some ambiguity about what the graduate dentist can do, should do, or if/when they should refer the patient to a specialist. How do you reply to a patient that asks “Doc, why can’t you do that for me rather than sending me somewhere else?”
Dentistry is an interdisciplinary profession. Every doctor desires the best outcome for their patients, which may necessitate several doctors providing their skillful care for a single patient. How do we attain excellent outcomes with multiple doctors involved treating a single patient? Every patient caregiver
must recall basic sciences, communicate well, know their limitations, learn what other caregivers can and cannot do, and welcome new information as well as accept criticism.
Exceptional treatment is based upon definitive diagnosis and partitioning care. A single patient may receive care from several doctors, with each doctor becoming “in charge” of the patient during their phase of treatment. Again, exceptional results occur when every doctor understands the treatment plan and yields “control” of the patient when it is time for another doctor to become “in charge”.
Bus analogy: The patient is the bus, and all the caregivers are in the bus taking turns driving it. The bus (patient) knows the destination, but does not know the terrain (anatomy), roads (physiology and pathology), or (treatment) challenges getting to their destination (completed treatment). The bus drivers (caregivers) change with each driver “in charge” of their portion of the journey. All drivers, even when not driving, must be aware of the entire route, confident of the other drivers, and adapt to changes in the itinerary.
Whether a general dentist or a specialist, it behooves us to remember basic sciences, maintain as well as advance our clinical skills, be very aware of the abilities of our colleagues, and have exemplary communication with everyone. Communication is the foundation for trust, friendships, and usually,
peace of mind when we go home after work.
The CADS Board of Directors excels as a multidisciplinary team to serve its members. This includes developing monthly meetings, continuing education and social events, representing you on the state and national levels, and even publishing the CADS web site and the STAR (you are reading it). Organized
dentistry keeps you informed and protects your interests by monitoring and interacting with state and national legislators.
Did you know that you can pay your annual dues with monthly installments from your credit card, rather than paying a “lump sum”? Thank organized dentistry!
Become involved! Come to meetings and CADS activities! Have fun interacting with your peers! We are here for you, and always welcome your help to make our profession the best it can be!
By Dale M. Gallagher, DDS, PA
CADS President, 2018-2019