Diploma in Special Care Dentistry – What’s it Like? Interview with a Successful Candidate

Diploma in Special Care Dentistry – What’s it Like? Interview with a Successful Candidate

The Diploma in Special Care Dentistry exam is designed to test a candidate's applied clinical knowledge, clinical reasoning and problem solving skills at a sub-specialist level. The exam is aimed at specialist trainees, CDS/PDS dentists and core trainees interested in pursuing a career in special care dentistry.

We caught up with one of our successful candidates, Laura McKay, who is a specialty training registrar in special care dentistry. Laura gives us insights into the exam components and provides tips on how to best prepare for it.

When did you complete the Diploma in Special Care Dentistry?

I completed the SCD Diploma in September 2021. I began my StR training in September 2020, and as my training pathway was 3 years in length and my end of StR training exams in November 2022 I felt it was a good halfway point.

Has completing the Diploma in Special Care Dentistry made a difference to your clinical practice and job role?

Completing the Diploma helped me develop a revision routine, while in full time employment, and gave me the opportunity to sit an exam with SBAs and unseen cases, which would reflect my membership exam at the end of my training. With regards to my clinical practice it was a development step from just treating special care dentistry patients to treatment planning safely.

How did you find the SBA paper?

The SBA paper was tough, as it’s a long exam, which requires focus, but overall I thought it was reflective of the level of knowledge expected. Although the majority of the SBA questions were special care based, it still had questions on general dentistry and clinical governance questions which I was not expecting but were relevant.

How were the unseen cases?

The unseen cases I felt were pitched at the right level, and encompassed a wide range of special care scenarios that those providing special care dentistry would frequently encounter. Although stressful, the unseen cases were extremely valuable to allow me to have an opportunity to discuss unseen cases, answer questions and perform in an exam setting.

What were the examiners like?

Although the examiners must remain neutral, they were supportive throughout the unseen cases, and in cases were able to make the scenario seem like a conversation – which helped with the exam nerves, but also allowed you to develop your responses, and show a wider range of your skills.

How did you prepare for the exam?

I began revising a few months before, utilising text books (Special Care in Dentistry: Handbook of Oral Healthcare and Medical Problems in Dentistry), but also by engaging with colleagues, and allowing everyday assessments to be an opportunity for discussions and ensuring I could justify treatment plans, and being encouraged to speak out loud and explain my rational. I was very fortunate that monthly teaching in my department was able to be tailored to unseen cases as multiple trainees were completing the Diploma at the same time, and we practised under timed conditions.

Do you have any handy tips for candidates preparing for this exam?

Practice with colleagues, use everyday patients as cases and practice speaking out loud. Utilise the College prep courses, other trainees or colleagues and organise study sessions together, as people who work/train in different settings can offer a different viewpoint which can be very informative.

For those in training programmes, consider the Diploma as a stepping stone for the membership exam, but ensure you plan your time accordingly. When I started my training I knew that after one year I wanted to be in a position where I could pass the Diploma, and so my training was aimed at this for the first year. I feel that it is important however to ensure time between the Diploma and membership exam, to allow you to build upon those skills you have learnt, to develop and improve, but also to make sure you don’t burn out or take on too much.

To learn more about the Diploma in Special Care Dentistry and apply, visit this page.


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