What is it like transitioning to the workforce?

Yasmin Samiee
Congratulations on completing your dental studies! You have put great effort into achieving your qualification and are about to take the first steps into your bright new future, post-study. You can leave exams, assignments, late-night studying, and instant noodles behind you.

Yasmin Samiee

Having been taught how to safely diagnose, treatment-plan, and treat a wide variety of patients, you have also likely learnt critical skills in communication and patient care. You’ve perhaps even taken a course or two in business management. 

But what is the transition from student to registered dental practitioner really like?

And no, I do not mean what it is like explaining the virtues of good oral hygiene or seamlessly extracting a difficult tooth. 

I am referring to the surrounding experiences associated with leaving your days as a student behind. 

Below, you will find a list of unfamiliar experiences you may face as a recent dental graduate, alongside techniques to help you manage these new situations. 

Imposter syndrome and clinical autonomy

Throughout your journey as a student, all clinical decisions were approved by a clinical educator and work assessed according to strict criteria. You were regularly provided with up-to-date didactic material to allow you to treat patients with the most relevant evidence-based practice. As a new graduate, you are responsible for your own clinical decisions and in charge of your continuing professional development (CPD), where you must stay abreast of new changes in the field. 

Though it can be very daunting to advise or suggest treatment options and guide patients through managing their oral health, it is very important to remember that you have graduated as a safe clinician, competent to make these clinical decisions. It is normal to feel a form of “imposter syndrome” and experience feelings of self-doubt. It may take time to build your confidence but trust the process and remember to reach out to your network of colleagues, senior colleagues, and mentors for guidance and support, should you need it. 

If you want to learn more about guidance and mentorship check out our blog . You can also call us on our helpline 1800 377 700 and talk to one of our counsellors if you need help adjusting to the workplace or are struggling with imposter syndrome.

No designated time off (goodbye summer break!)

We grow accustomed to having time off during and at the end of each academic year; this is the time we take to relax and recharge to be able to tackle the demands of the semester or year ahead. Taking time off is even more important as a working professional as it will help provide longevity to your career and prevent symptoms of burnout, anxiety, and depression. As you no longer have mandated holiday time, plan to take time away from work throughout the year, whether it is a long-weekend away or a week off each quarter.

Feeling isolated

As a student, you are surrounded daily by friends, classmates, clinical educators, mentors and staff who are there to support you and foster your growth. Once you start working, it is often just you, your patient and assisting colleagues. It is easy to feel alone, especially if you are not working as part of a larger team. Continue putting time and effort into building good working relationships with your new team, as you will spend every day working alongside them. It is also important to reach out to others and connect, whether that be spending time with other clinicians in a group practice, in study clubs, or at networking events. 

Sticking to a strict work schedule

Gone are the days of missing lectures to catch up on your studies or get a few more hours of sleep. You are expected to be at work at a certain time, work designated hours, and be physically, mentally, and emotionally present for every single patient. Trying to maintain the responsibilities of your position while carrying the pressure of patient care can take an emotional toll. Remember to be kind to yourself. You will inevitably face new stressors during your transition from student to dental practitioner, but you can trust the learning process. The more you encounter these stressors, the more experience you will gain. Consider putting a self-care plan in place and remember that you can reach out to us at DPS at any point during your dental practitioner journey for help and guidance. 

Free time

There are two trains of thought surrounding the concept of “free time” upon graduation. For one, you may feel like you have more time on your hands as you are no longer studying. Once you leave work, unless you are engaging in CPD or preparing cases, you leave everything behind and can focus on other interests until you return to work the next day. This is a great opportunity to explore and nurture your hobbies or to catch up with friends and family. 

Alternately, you may feel more time-poor due to new stressors associated with being an independent clinician with long working hours. It is normal to feel stressed or tired after work. This may also be a good time to “learn to say no”, setting boundaries and taking time for yourself to relax and regenerate before the following working day.


One of the biggest differences between being a student and working as a health professional is the beginning of financial freedom. You will have more expendable cash, be able to save for larger purchases, and start repaying your student loans. You will find a good balance between putting money towards enjoyable experiences and items, versus planning ahead for possible home, practice, or car purchases. Tying this in with the information above, remember to take time off – perhaps plan for an overseas trip! Remember to live and spend money within your means and explore financial literacy for a long, healthy career. You can read more about setting financial goals. 

Everyone’s experiences following student life will be different, but you will be able to tackle anything that comes your way with the right amount of preparation and awareness of what is ahead. Best of luck with your journey! Reach out to the team at DPS if you need any guidance throughout the process.