Just received your A level results, and set on applying for dentistry?
Job shadowing isn't an actual requirement in your application - but it helps.
Back when I was at your stage, I was fortunate enough to shadow Prof Chung and Dr Lewis Lee of RCOLL Dental Clinic for a week. Both of them were really sweet mentors, and gave me plenty of genuine advice about their lives as dentists. There are pros and cons to every career, and as dentistry is a skilled profession, I strongly believe that it's all the more important you are prepared to do this job for the rest of your life.
The interviews for NUS dentistry are mid-April onward, so it's not too late to arrange for an attachment if you've not done so yet. Unlike medical attachments unfortunately, there are much more limited dental attachments in Singapore.
Due to popular request, we've handily compiled a complete list of job shadowing opportunities in Singapore (with some insider tips) for your reference.
Dentistry job shadowing opportunities in Singapore
In a nutshell, there are 2 ways to set up a job shadowing experience: you can either apply through a public hospital route, or you can go "private" and ask a friendly dental clinic.
Both give you different types of experiences, so if you have the time, we'd encourage you to try both.
Please note that all the listed attachments below are incredibly popular, so please apply early! If you are applying late, you probably have more chances job shadowing at a private dental clinic. We cover both public and private job attachment routes today.
The public sector dentist job attachment route
1. NUS 1-day job shadowing
Overview: NUS offers a 1-day shadowing experience. It’s a 9 am - 5 pm programme with pure shadowing, meaning you won't get any hands-on experience.
Over the course of the day, there'll be a couple of talks addressing life as a dentist and NUS dentistry course related matters. You'll also get to observe dentists and dental students treating patients.
Your experience with NUS may vary, as the afternoon portion of the programme involves 1-on-1 shadowing with dentists - Some of whom are naturally more inclined to chat and hand out pointers than others.
Pros: It’s organized by NUS, which is where you are probably applying to. If that doesn’t demonstrate interest, we don’t know what else does.
It's also a great opportunity to chat to NUS students, and get a proper sense of the NUS dentistry course.
Cons: We think that 1 day is probably way too short to have a proper feel of what being a dentist entails, and probably won't give you enough to talk about in your interviews and personal statement.
It’s also not available from March onward, which is about the time you panic-realise that your grades are actually good enough for dentistry, but unfortunately have not arranged any job attachments prior.
Attachment period: The NUS job shadowing programme runs all year round, apart from the months of March to June, September and December.
2. National Dental Centre open house and 1-day job shadowing
Overview: The NDC JC open house is held twice a year during the June and December school holidays. It provides you with an overview of the dental profession, a Q&A session with one of NDC's dentists, and a tour of the dental facility in National Dental Centre.
Those who've attended the half-day open house will be eligible to apply for a 1-day attachment to shadow an NDC dentist*.
*Application for the NDC 1-day observership is subject to approval and availability. The maximum allowable intake is capped at 10 students/bi-annual. Priority will be given to those who have not taken up a clinical observership with NDCS before.
Pros: NDC is the largest dental centre in Singapore with one of the busiest patient workloads, so you'll get a good sense of how busy life as a dentist can be.
Cons: Places are very limited at 2 sessions per year, and 120 participants per session. 1 day is again not going to be enough for a proper "shadowing" experience.
Attachment period: June and December school holidays.
How to apply: You can apply here.
3. NHG and SHP polyclinic 1 - 3 month dental assistantship
Overview: This is the ultimate insider hack - Polyclinic dental assistantships are not common knowledge amongst most applicants, apart from a select few who have dentist friends.
NHG and SHP polyclinics regularly take in temporary staff as dental assistants. The only requirement is an O level certificate. No prior experience is required, as the polyclinics provide training.
As a dental assistant, you'll get to provide chair-side hands-on assistance to dentists during treatment, and will also help to perform administrative duties.
There are plenty of available opportunities too – one friend of mine had 5 different student dental assistants over the course of a year.
Pros: Working as a dental assistant is the most comprehensive and authentic "dentist experience" you can get. As a dental assistant, you are literally taught everything, from infection control modules to dental materials used in treatment. It’s a goldmine of unique experiences to talk about during your dentistry interview, and you get much more hands-on and actual work experience than all the other applicants ever will.
Another plus is you also get to make friends with the polyclinic dentists - My collegues frequently go out for sporting activities and meals with their dental assistants attachees, meaning you can pick their brains 24/7 for extra application and interview tips.
Lastly, you're also paid 7 bucks an hour, which is better than nothing.
Cons: Requires significant time commitment. Also is an actual job, which sometimes takes the fun out of everything.
Attachment period: All year round. Minimum period of 1 month, but normal length of attachment is at least 2 - 3 months.
How to apply: You can apply for NHG polyclinic dental assistant posts here.
To find other such opportunities, do a Google search of "dental assistant jobs in Singapore", which should throw up tons of other job sites. Alternatively, you can try contacting polyclinics directly and request to do a work attachment as a dental assistant.
4. Bonus: TTSH, KTPH and HPB job shadowing
Though not commonly publicized, the rest of the major public institutions such as Khoo Teck Puat Hospital dental department, Tan Tock Seng Hospital dental department, and the Health Promotion Board School Dental Centre also accepts students for week-long attachments.
You can arrange for these by dropping their respective dental departments an email.
The private sector dentist job attachment route
5. Don’t be Asian
Just be thick skinned, and ask around nicely.
We mean it – simply take the initiative to drop an email to your dentist, your mom’s mahjong kaki who’s a dentist, your yoga instructor's dentist pal, or just about any dental clinics in your hood. Some clinics will also offer short-term dental assistantships too, similar to polyclinics.
Almost all dentists have a soft spot for education, so there’s a high chance you’ll be able to arrange a short job shadowing stint with them.
You'll probably have more luck with the neighbourhood dental clinics, compared to the really atas Orchard or township-style dental clinics. The latter tend to have a certain "brand image" with patients to maintain, so even if they take you on, you may find yourself getting booted out of their treatment room by patients!
Pros: Probably easier to arrange, less formalities, generally less convoluted application process.
Cons: The private sector is quite different from the public sector. You won't get a sense of what a public dental institution or hospital environment is like, which is where you'll spend most of your student life and a good part of your working life.
Attachment period: All year round.
How to apply: Email the clinic and ask nicely. Some pointers -
- Introduce yourself, and state upfront your request to do an attachment (and the dates).
- Explain why you want to do dentistry.
- Explain why you want to do an attachment with their clinic in particular, and include some sincere compliments (I love that your clinic reaches out to serve the poor in the community yada yada).
- Attach your resume.
We wish you the best of luck in your application! For more, you can read this post about what to expect with your NUS dentistry application.
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