What to ask your Foundation Year Practice – a guide from a Bristol graduate

I am Rachel, a previous dental student who graduated from Bristol in 2019. Since then I completed my foundation year on the Bristol Scheme and this September, I started my DCT 1 role in Cardiff.

My aim of this piece is to help the current 5th years and future students ask those important questions when ranking/joining your foundation year practice.

My experience of national recruitment included assignment to the Bristol scheme based on my SJT and interview rank. Following this I ranked the practices within my scheme- I found visiting these the best way to aid my decision making. Saying this, often due to the distribution of the practices it is not possible to visit all of these in provided time frame. I visited 5 practices in total. What with the new ‘zoom culture’ maybe this could be a solution to this issue!

I was assigned my practice based on my national recruitment rank compared to others within the Bristol scheme. However, I am aware in other schemes the assignment of practices is based on face to face meetings, independent of the national recruitment rank. There is also opportunity to opt in for upgrades prior to confirming your chosen scheme. This is an option if you wish to gain an opportunity to gain a place in a scheme you ranked higher than the one you have already been assigned. This would not be applicable if you were assigned your 1st choice.

Looking back at the journey from final year in dental school to foundation training, I remember having a lot of questions regarding expectations for my foundation year. It was when I started visiting a number of practice’s in my dental foundation scheme that I consider what things would be good to know about a practice I could/would be joining in September.

Here are my top questions to ask…

Questions… Additional notes
Where are you going to spend your time working? You may be working in different rooms in the week, maybe even different practices.

Is there a window in your room?

What are your working hours? Is it 9am-5pm or is it shift work such as 2pm-8pm?
Is your trainer in the practice every day or do they only work part time?


If they are not in, are there other dentist in the practice for you to ask questions to? This will be important in your first few months
Do you work with the same nurse or is there a rota? Try and find out the level of experience of the nurse/s you will be working with
Does your trainer have any special interests?


Your trainers may complete Invisalign or have a special interest in endodontics. For me one of my trainers placed implants which I was able to observe and learn from
Where can you park at work? Is there a staff car park, if not where is the nearest place to park?
Where is the nearest bus/train station? If you do not have a car, I’d recommend looking into possible commuting routes. You don’t want to be relying on too many different modes of transport
Are there any limitations on dental materials or dental equipment you can use? It is best to check with your trainer what equipment and materials you can use for different cases.
My foundation year surgery

As a side note for any fellow left-handed dentists, make sure you find out which practices in your scheme have the ability to change the dental chair set up to cater for you. I took for granted how easy it was to change this at BDH. In my scheme, around ½ to 2/3rds of the practices on the list were able to facilitate me as a left-handed dentist, sometimes this cannot be done due to the room layout/type of dental chair present.

To round up, in my opinion the best thing you can do on being assigned your scheme is to get in touch with someone in the year above in your corresponding scheme. Even better, talk to the current foundation dentist in each practice…with social media and dentistry being a relatively small profession you should be able to do this with a bit of detective work…

The current foundation dentist is the best person to tell you about what it’s like to work for the practice and their experience so far. 

I’d like to take this opportunity to wish all the 5th years the best of luck in their SJTs and upcoming finals. It’s a difficult time especially with covid-19, so pace yourself and be confident!

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