Find people who understand you at courses and events

Posted by Dr Catherine Rutland on 03/08/2018
Open water swimming

Well a few hours ago I had a gorgeous drive as the sun rose on my way up the M3 to Heathrow. Belfast clearly didn’t get the advance weather requirements I sent…I’m beginning to think my requests go unheeded!

Take the open water swimming course I attended a couple of weeks ago with my brother. When we booked it I put in a long term request to warm up the sea to its normal temperature for the time of year. Unheeded. At 9 degrees Celsius it was 4 degrees below average. 

As we got closer to the course I decided some action was required to mitigate the weather risk. I was so looking forward to the course that I wanted to put as much in place to make that enjoyment happen. So I ordered a dryrobe for my brother and myself. For those of you who are wondering what I am talking about they are essentially huge walk in sleeping bags to wear after you get out of cold water! Essentially risk management!

The weekend arrived and the forecast improved. Due to our excitement about our new robes, it seemed completely sensible to go for a sea dip before the course without wetsuits. Let’s just say the robes worked!

If you haven’t been on a non-work related course recently can I suggest you do? Learning to me is always a pleasure, work related or not, but we do the non-work related so rarely that it always feels like an amazing indulgence and treat.

When I present one of the things I love the most is seeing the interaction between delegates. It is that opportunity to speak to likeminded people and share ideas and issues. We work in a very isolated profession, even those working in big practices. Finding people who understand you and you dare to talk to can be hard. Personally, I feel that if you do all your CPD online or from a magazine and don’t attend events you miss out on so much more than just learning a topic to fulfil GDC requirements. That little bit of local information, that feeling that you are not alone with that concern, sometimes just the ability to let out your frustrations all add to improving your practising life. 

Having said that, it doesn’t always have to be about dentistry, I met one of my very best friends on a dentistry course over ten years ago and I don’t know what I’d do without her. The link initially was that we were the only relatively young female principlals at the event and we shared our common issues, we were both so relieved to find we weren’t alone.

At a time when we are so regulated and legislated we need to be supported, we need to realise we aren’t alone. Because we absolutely are not. It’s ok not to be positive all the time, it’s ok to admit we are struggling and life is getting on top of us. We only need to be able to tell one person to relieve some of the burden on us.

That one person, if emotionally intelligent, will be able to guide you to further support even if they can’t provide it themselves.

As a supporter you don’t have to know the answers, I get approached so often in my role for support of all forms. It’s what I do, but it doesn’t mean I know all the answers. Nobody ever minds if I say to them that I don’t know what the answer is or what to do. As long as I find out and get back to them that is all that is needed, regardless of whether it is practical or emotional. A lot of the time people just want to be listened to. It’s a scary old world we work and live in and being able to feel heard is so important.

Even courses outside of work provide this, many of us had fears about open water swimming, safety, temperature, how to interpret sea currents or river flows. Interestingly none of us had any problem admitting these fears to each other, even though we had never met before. We admitted that we needed to address them, learn as much as we could and then decide what we were comfortable to swim in.  I think we could learn from that in dentistry. Nobody thought anything less of anybody for admitting their fears, it was a sensible and safe thing to do.

In dentistry that ‘safe’ aligns to your own wellbeing and that of your patients care. We all need to start being more open about what we really feel, not to moan and despair but to be able to tackle the concerns and improve our emotional lives.

The weather clearly finally got my message as we swam that afternoon, although the water was cold, the sun was on our backs and the pleasure of being with likeminded people helped to counteract the numb feet and brain freeze!

About the Author:

Catherine Rutland

Catherine Rutland works as Head of Professional Services at Simplyhealth Professionals, and writes a regular column for The Dentist