Interview - Dr Caitlin Agnew

Working in the Oral Health department as a house surgeon is great because of the large support system as well as the extensive work experience we receive.

The Oral Health team has a vast range of specialists including dentists, special needs dental specialists, paediatric specialists, maxillofacial surgeons, oral medicine specialists, prosthodontists and orthodontists. We are very fortunate because at the hospital we get the opportunity to learn from specialists and work alongside many of them each day. This enables us to broaden our knowledge base and dental experience.

The dental house officer job is very busy because we see patients from over three District Health Boards. Our year is split up into 6 rotations which offer us a wide range of experience in maxillofacial trauma and surgery, paediatrics, special needs dentistry, oral surgery and emergency relief of pain. We are also involved in the treatment of cardiac patients and work in a very interesting head and neck cancer clinic. It is great to have a change at the beginning of each new rotation!

At the hospital we get to help those people who can't afford regular dental care through our relief of pain and cardiac services and this is a very rewarding part of our job. Additionally, we have the chance to sharpen our minor oral surgery skills.

Each Friday morning we have an education meeting for an hour. Here we listen to lectures from our staff and various guest speakers. This meeting always generates a great learning environment and many debates. It allows us to keep up to date with new advances in the industry and helps us to revise numerous educational topics.

To work as a dental house surgeon, you need to have completed a 5 year Bachelor of Dental Surgery degree (BDS). In New Zealand you have to face the cold and head down south to Dunedin, as this is the only place you can study dentistry. This degree combines the theoretical and practical aspects of dentistry exceptionally well.

It has been great this year being able to attend conferences, such as the annual Dental Hospital conference where we can interact with like minded professionals, work hard and also get to know one another on a social level.

Dentistry offers a rewarding and worthwhile career to anyone who has an interest in and a concern for the needs of people; an even temperament and a sense of precision. As a profession, Dentistry gives an unusual opportunity to contribute to a person's appearance, well-being and general health. One of its great attractions is its emphasis on caring for people and encouraging them to find the means to care for themselves. I love working with people and the challenges I face every day in my chosen career.

Dentistry is a constantly changing profession and is a career which offers many different opportunities after completion of the under-graduate degree.

I have been very busy this year working full time as well as being on call once or twice a week but when I get the chance I love to get outside to go for a run and to play tennis.

I am also about to start playing in a netball team with friends.  I try to make time to go out for coffee and dinner and also to fit in non-work related reading. Most of our team socialise together by going for after work drinks on a Friday in Newmarket.

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