ACEN student scholarship

Dentistry placement experience in the Northern Territory

When I found out I was placed in the Northern Territory for my second clinical rotation, I felt excited and prepared. Growing up in the regional city of Cairns, I believed I had the right skills and knowledge to handle the clinical challenges faced in the NT. However, I had underestimated the potential for personal and professional growth.

My 16 week WIL placement commenced in the first week of July and concluded late October. Throughout this experience I worked predominately at the Darwin Dental Clinic however had the opportunity to work at the Royal Darwin Hospital with special needs patients. I was also privileged enough to spend a week in the remote community of Yarralin, 400 kilometres west of Katherine. Each clinical experience and challenge contributed to the diverse skill set vital for my career as a rural practitioner.

Skill Development


I had to improve my non-verbal communication skills as well as learn non-jargon terms for oral disease for people with little or no health literacy.

The multicultural nature of Darwin presented a large challenge to what I thought were my strong communication skills. However, from the first day, I had to convey diagnoses, treatments and emotional support to patients who barely speak and understand English, if not at all. I had to improve my non-verbal communication skills as well as learn non-jargon terms for oral disease for people with little or no health literacy.

Working with the Indigenous community in Yarralin, I learnt terms and sayings for treatments which I applied when treating other Indigenous people. This helped build a rapport with my patients and helped make a comfortable atmosphere.

Clinical Knowledge and its Application

Coming into my final rotation of my dental degree I was confident in my knowledge base of dental treatments. Little did I know the application of my knowledge would be tested when working in the Northern Territory. Previously working in non-Indigenous communities, extracting teeth became second nature for me. However, I was surprised about the density
and strength of the bone holding in teeth of Indigenous people. From this experience, I was able to learn different extraction techniques and learnt to rely on instruments I had never dreamed of using before.

Personal Growth

Throughout this WIL placement, I learnt valuable lessons which helped me reflect on my personal life. The optimal example of this was my time spent in the remote community of Yarralin. I had no phone service nor any way to contact the “outside world”. This gave me ample opportunity to watch and learn from the members of the community. I was able to build on my cultural competence and sensitivity, taking the time to speak to the members of the community and learn from them. My time spent in the community made me appreciate the opportunities I have had and encouraged my desire to work in rural areas.

ACEN Scholarship

My time spent in the NT was made a lot more comfortable by being awarded the 2017 ACEN WIL Student Scholarship. Not only was I rewarded with a valuable experience which opened my eyes to the health challenges of Indigenous people but I was also able to immerse myself in the culture of Darwin and surrounding areas. With the scholarship I was able to experience and learn about Darwin. Moreover, ACEN has helped me pursue my dream of working as a rural dentist.