From September, the Dental School has worked hard to create a new student support system that works to improve access to services and provide better care for students.
UBDSS (Loz, VP) was lucky enough to meet with our senior tutors to discuss the new system and find out why they chose to volunteer for this role. If you don’t know this already, our senior tutors are:
How has the student support system improved??
Angela: There has been a BIG CONVERSATION regarding student support and the mental health of our students. Though the support system has been present from some time, the reformed system has been an evolved process and I’ve been working on this for a while.I have seen the changes progress first hand.
A lot of the new support system has been university driven and has occurred across faculties. There has been this concept of blending support. The university is really trying to bring the student services, student health service, counsellors and schools together. Rather than having pre-clinical and clinical dean, we have senior tutors instead. We have also put a lot of effort into improving the personal tutor system so students are seen regularly by their tutors to see how things are going and if there’s anything they can do to make dental school a bit easier/more enjoyable!
I’ve really enjoyed networking with university staff to protect students; it’s been a great bonus. We all meet together and discuss common student ‘problems’ and student concerns. This isn’t on an individual level, but on more of a general level, to spot patterns and similar issues our students may have. This means we can discuss possible solutions or find ways of providing support for these particular issues.
Gill: What I have noticed is now there is more people and more places for students to approach and discuss any matters they have. There’s been lots of drop in services added, which is great for dental students as you don’t have much time and it can be difficult to plan appointments around clinic times, lectures and labs.
Angela: We have a new student advisor from outside the school, who is location on St Michael’s Hill. Claire takes primarily medics and Amy takes vets and dentists (smaller school), but they work together and you can see both.
We have been trying to promote the new system, as you may notice! Posters, talks etc.
We have also introduced Academic advisors for each speciality. We have a formal list of who to speak to for academic reasons. e.g. a first year student had an interest in max fax surgery and wanted to speak to someone. The academic tutors are great for students who want to know a bit more about things or need academic support in specific areas.
What the older students may not realise is that we have introduced resilience workshops for year 1s. The sessions are based around coping mechanisms and play on a concept of ‘waiting for the storm to pass’ and ‘dancing in the rain’. It’s not the strongest to survive but the ones who adapt to change.
Julie: Yes, its about learning to be more resilient and it’s something you can train
Why do you think you’re great for your position?
Angela: Having Julie Weeks and Gill Woolerton have been a huge help for me – it’s extra support available for students and extra support available for me. We are all a team and we are comrades.
I put students first and I find helping people incredibly satisfying. I’ve gone from being a ‘scientist’ to embracing a role in student support and pastoral care. I’ve done mental health awareness training twice and have done a 3 day counselling course, which though not a lot, gave me insight and a basic introduction to counselling. It really moved me and I came out different than when I went in. I thought it would be really fluffy but after a morning I was chipping in… even role play!
Julie: I’m keen to help students in any way to make student life easy as possible, to help and to act as friendly face.
Gill: This was also a voluntary role and I think it’s very important you know this, because we love students and value student support. We chose this role.
Julie: We know it can be so stressful. Its a learning experience going to uni.
Gill: You’re learning to be independent and it can be a really big change. It’s been great to learn about the process – a real experience. When I started working in this role I realised how much I enjoyed working with students.
Julie: Yes, I’m trying to learn about procedures so I can advise. We are enthusiastic and are trying to be proactive, but it’s not a job we will do perfectly all the time and we are open to suggestions to help improve the help we can offer you!
How can you help students? What kind of support can you offer (situations, stress etc)?
Julie: We are open to suggestions and we want to make sure we are tailored to you.
Our time at dental school was different so we are not sure how we would have managed. Give us your ideas and we will respond accordingly!
Angela: We can give advice also regarding the Academic advisors. This is a great feature of our new system and there are lots of people who can give you advice about careers etc in a particular area of Dentistry you’re interested in.
Gill: Regarding your health and well being, speak to us and come forward with anything because we cant help if you don’t. If it’s that you’re incredibly stressed, or struggling to get on with the people you live with, or you’re having family problems, we are here to make things a bit less stressful for you.
Angela: Yes, we can at least point you in the right direction of how to get help, whether that’s speaking to tutors or discussing with you options/services outside the school. We can negotiate on your behalf and talk to other staff to let them know what’s going on so you don’t have to explain things a billion times. If you want something you can ask for something you want (time, etc) and we will always be honest an open about the options you have etc. We can facilitate a discussion with other students or staff if there has been a fall out.
Gill: Things can remain as confidential as you like them, but we can speak to other members of staff if you would like us to pass on your information for circumstance.
How can students contact you?
All: Email (contact details on posters and at the end of this interview). Emailing is the easiest way because you can organise times and arrange when to meet.
Angela: Yes, emailing is the best method for me. It means I can arrange a time with you and I’m not always in my office.
Gill: You can also find us in person.
Julie: Usually on clinic! Don’t just assume that if you’re a pre-clinical year you can’t approach me or Gill. We are happy to see all students, pre-clinical and clinical.
What’s the most important thing you want to get from your role as a member of the student support team?
Gill: We want students to know that we are approachable! We want you to know there is a lot of help. Just make sure you talk to us; It can be about anything! You’re here for a while and a lot can change in the time you’re at Dental School. We appreciate you may have difficult times and we want you to be able to talk to us about anything that may be affecting you.
Julie: So students feel supported even if they don’t need it. Just to know its there. Some students will make use of it, but others won’t and that’s ok. You aren’t anonymous and your needs matter. You should never feel alone
What’s the one thing you’d like students to realise or understand when it comes to their mental health and seeking support?
Angela: Talk to SOMEONE! It doesn’t matter who it is. If you’re concerned about a friend or colleague you can come forward and speak to us or submit a form- The concern forms aren’t just for clinical practice but they’re for raising concerns if you’re worried about someone. We will act with care to make sure you’re all protected.
Julie: If you have a concern about another student we won’t mention your name if we approach them.
Angela: Also regarding ECs: Always come forward as soon as possible – don’t leave it too late. It’s always nice to be given a third chance and no reason is too small. Submit your form just in case and if you pass its not looked at at all. It’s just deleted!
If you have any questions or want to get in touch with any of your Senior tutors, the contact details for each are as follows:
Dr Angela Hague, Room 3-031
Top Floor Main Building
Tel 0117 342 9574
Ms Julie Weeks
Top Floor Chapter House Room 3-016
Tel 0117 342 9648
Days of work: Wednesday – Friday
Mrs Gill Woolerton
Paediatric Dentistry, SpRs/MClinDent office MB-1-060
Tel 0117 342 9532
Days of work: Tuesday and Thursday