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Working at the South Wales branch broadens my perspective 

It is a great experience working at the branch, and the work varies a lot depending on the events that are coming up. I also work core hours as an oral surgery specialty trainee in a district general hospital treating patients. 

Christina Williams 250X250
Christina Williams South Wales branch secretary and specialty trainee

At the moment I am busier than usual because our Annual General Meeting (AGM) is coming up, along with a conference, and it requires a lot of organisation. In order to do this effectively, I have to liaise with a small committee and make sure all the events are in the diary along with preparing the AGM papers. On a day-to-day basis at the branch one of my main jobs is making sure all the minutes from the meetings are together.

It is important for me to strike a good balance between working at the South Wales branch and doing my specialty training, which requires some advanced planning. When there are periods of increased activity for the branch, I factor this into my specialty training timeline. Most of the committee meetings are scheduled for after work so that we are all able to attend.

Tricks for organisation

I enjoy organisation and have done since I was a student when I used to create revision timetables, broken down into three manageable study chunks plus breaks every day.

At the South Wales branch I organise and book all the accommodation that I can at the end of August, and then as things ramp up towards the spring of the next year, I can prioritise other tasks. You can get unexpectedly busy too in this job, so having organised the majority of events and tasks in advance really helps.

Organising popular events

I have been involved in organising several educational evening events as part of the Cardiff branch, and I was part of the committee that helped to organise the AGM and conference last year. The AGM was really successful with good attendance rates. In South Wales we are really lucky because Health Education and Improvement Wales (HEIW) do a lot of educational events, and we are planning to organise more useful branch events within the next year.

Targeting the best time of year for people to come to events can really affect the attendance rates. Dentists need to earn their CPD hours before the end of the year, so we find that having educational events in the autumn means they are better attended. Likewise, some events can work more effectively in the daytime or the evening. We use feedback forms and surveys to see where we can improve in terms of scheduling, and topics that dentists are interested in.

Being part of the branch benefits my specialty training

Working at the branch has been a great experience because it means I am able to keep up to date with changes in dentistry and the challenges associated with working in general practice in the current climate. There are so many skills I have learned that are transferrable to dentistry such as leadership, collaborative working, teaching, and organisation. These days dentists have to be good at non-clinical skills like organisation in order to become partners, for example.

I am able to keep up to date with changes in dentistry and the challenges associated with working in general practice in the current climate.

At the branch I have been able to reconnect with a number of people I attended dental school with, along with being able to meet lots of other dental professionals within my local area. It is hugely beneficial being able to work with people both in general dental practice and across multiple dental specialities.

Making up for what we missed as trainees

Having the extra networking opportunities, experience and support at the South Wales branch is particularly helpful to me, because I had to do my foundation training in the middle of COVID-19.

I volunteered with a group of Dental Core Trainees (DCTs) and we were redeployed to an intensive care unit. We had to do things that we had never expected to do, such as proning (turning patients face down) and providing oral care for intubated patients. In fact, DCT2 and DCT3 were the first normal years of training. There is such a positive social aspect of working at the South Wales branch, and of course we missed that during the pandemic.

There is such a positive social aspect of working at the South Wales branch

My favourite part of being involved with the branch

Variety of work is important for me, as is socialising with other professionals and gaining insight into their practices, and by being involved in the branch I get all of this.

Collaborating to organise events is very enjoyable. Being involved in the branch is an excellent way to represent the local dental community; something I feel strongly about particularly with the current challenges being faced by the whole dental team.

Looking to the future

I would like to continue working for the South Wales branch for as long as I can combine it with working as a dentist. It would be great to recruit some more DCTs at the branch, and to encourage more people to join us at our events. In the next couple of years we have some new committee members and some interesting ideas to implement so I am really looking forward to the work.