Residency can be very different from dental school. Having an idea of what to expect will help you start on a strong note. Here are our top five tips for new or soon-to-be-new dentists as they prepare for residency.

1. Choose your dental residency wisely.

Each residency program is unique, and they may not all be the best fit for you. Every program has a distinct structure, requires a different amount of time, and brings certain financial considerations. There are many ways to get an idea of a program before you apply. Read reviews online, talk to current residents and, if possible, shadow residents or dentists in that specialty during dental school. Feeling confident in your decision will help ease the stress leading up to the residency start date.

2. Take your finances into account.

Most dental residencies cost money, which adds another expense before you start earning an income. Plus, you may also be dealing with loans from dental school. If possible, start paying off your loans on an income-based plan during residency. Deferring the loans could add substantial sums in interest. Whatever your situation, be sure to have a financial plan as you apply for and begin residency.

3. Learn as much as you can, from everyone you can.

This might seem obvious, but it’s a good reminder for residency. There will, inevitably, be challenging days, long hours and nights of sleep that are too short. Through all of that, focus on the learning you are receiving, even in the most difficult moments. You can also embrace non-traditional learning opportunities, whether that’s a chance to witness a rare surgery, audit a lecture outside of your specialty or attend a risk management webinar in your free time (MLMIC Dental offers several!). You never know what may be useful some day!

4. Stay organized — including with your time.

By now, you’ve had many years of school to figure out how to keep everything — textbooks, notes, books, etc. — organized. Residency is a great time to work on organizing your time, too. If you’re not already, you may someday be juggling work, family, hobbies and more — not to mention time to sleep and recharge. During residency, give your work-life balance a test, and be sure to recognize if there is room to improve.

5. Prioritize self-care.

When you’re not taking care of others during dental residency, it is vital that you make time to take care of yourself. Try out different ways to prioritize your mental health, whether by meditating, exercising, playing with a pet or taking up an art project. Also, never forget that sleep is the ultimate form of self-care. Don’t be ashamed to dedicate 7 or 8 hours to your rest – it will make your time awake so much more productive and enjoyable.

Remember, no matter how much you prepare, you may feel nervous, uncomfortable or out of your element on the first day of residency. That’s normal, and in time, those feelings will pass — just like they did when you were in dental school!

For more tips for new dentists from MLMIC Dental, read the series here or check out more topics on our blog! Be sure to follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn to stay up to date with the latest news. If you’re interested in applying for professional liability coverage, dentists can do so online.