A big part of my daily work as a recruiter is talking with dentists who are interested in starting a career in the Netherlands. Most of these dentists are either recent graduates, or people who already  have a few years of work experience under their belt. However, I regularly get into contact with students who want to get the most out of their education and are already exploring the opportunities that await them after they finish their studies.

The cheerful Croatian student Borna falls into the latter category. A student of the University of Rijeka, he is already preparing himself for his future career as a dentist.

A family of dentists

Dentistry has been a part of Borna’s life since the day of his birth: his grandfather was a dentist, and his father still works as a dental technician. Borna himself likes working with his hands, so he chose to try and continue the family tradition.

Even though he has been able to learn a lot from his father and grandfather, Borna also decided that this would be the right moment to see more of the world, discover new things and experience how dentistry works in other countries. This is the reason he started looking for a clinic abroad where he would be able to do a dentistry traineeship of a couple of weeks.

As he had been used to Croatia’s pleasant climate, his first idea was to look in warmer countries such as Spain. However, after doing some more orientation, he found out that not everyone spoke English, which would of course make his traineeship more difficult. Borna then set out to find a place where he would be able to do his work – at least initially – just speaking the English language. This is how he ended up looking in the Netherlands, and we got in touch with each other.

We got along quickly, so I got the question if I would be able to find him a Dutch clinic that would allow him to do a traineeship during the summer months. To accomplish this, I was helped by my colleagues, who are in touch with a large network of Dutch dental clinics. They are also the ones who guide our dentists after they have concluded our Dutch course and the other necessary preparation to be able to work in a Dutch dental clinic. They explored the options within their network to see if there were dental clinics that would offer Borna a traineeship. Soon, we received good news from the East of the Netherlands, which meant that, in the summer of 2019, Borna could spend a few weeks working at Dental Centre Zuiderval in Enschede!

Arrival in the Netherlands

Soon after arriving in the Netherlands, one of the things that stood out to Borna is that everything is very organised and structured. The work instructions were clear, and there was a positive atmosphere. In the clinic where he would do his dentistry traineeship, he was informed in advance on the best ways in which to spend his time there.

Efficient dentistry

Seeing as Borna was not yet a graduated dentist, nor spoke Dutch, he could not treat patients without supervision. After all, a dentist needs to be registered with the Dutch register for healthcare professionals (BIG), to be allowed to do that. One of the requirements to be included in the registry is, of course, a valid diploma. In addition, dentists from outside of the Netherlands must prove that their level of Dutch is adequate by successfully completing the B2 Dutch language exam.

For Borna, however, the purpose of this traineeship was, above all, to get a sense of how the Dutch perform dental healthcare, and of course to learn a lot while doing so. He spent a lot of time observing the treatments of other dentists and talking with patients. Apart from that, he also made diagnoses, worked on prostheses and assisted in the laboratory. As you might expect, this was a very interesting experience for someone whose father works as a dental technician. His time in the emergency department was another valuable learning experience, as he was able to see and learn a lot during the busy hours.

Looking back on this period, one word that Borna uses to summarise what he saw is ‘efficiency.’ Through good communication and cooperation between dentists and assistants, there is a strong sense of organisation and structure. The colleagues talk with each other a lot and the assistant knows which materials the dentist needs, which allows them to offer high-quality dental care.

Dental treatments are supported by a strong basis of blueprints, guidelines and protocols, which leads to a pleasant work atmosphere in which it is clear what needs to be done by everyone involved. Borna points out that this is enhanced further by the high quality of the available materials, such as the presence of rotatory systems.

Another thing that caught Borna’s attention is that dentists see many patients per day, yet this does not affect the quality of the treatments. He himself is someone who likes to learn and improve his skills by treating many patients and working efficiently. After all, that is the best way to become a good dentist. An additional advantage offered in the Netherlands is that the costs of treatments are fixed, so it is not necessary to try and attract customers with budget pricing. If you are a good dentist, the patients will return.



Balance between work and private life

Another advantage of dentistry in the Netherlands that Borna observed is the balance between someone’s professional and private life. The working hours are clear, and when the work day is done, you can go home and enjoy the other things in life. And when you do have to work extra hours, you are rightfully compensated. This allowed him to socialise with other BGB dentists, some of whom he is still in touch with today.

When Borna arrived in the Netherlands, he expected Dutch people to live up to the reputation that Northern Europeans sometimes have: that they are cold and distant. His experience was quite different, as he found many people to be social and willing to help both at work and outside. Naturally, this made his traineeship much more pleasant.

Cultural differences

An interesting aspect of experiencing a new culture is that there are always curious and sometimes funny differences. At the top of Borna’s list is of course the bicycle, an iconic aspect of Dutch public life. As far as the clinic goes, one thing that stood out is the lunch. In contrast with some other countries, lunch at a Dutch clinic means enjoying it together. The difference is even bigger when you look at what is on the lunch table, a big part of it being the boterhammen, Dutch sandwiches that are just slices of bread with cheese, meat or something sweet.

While Borna enjoyed the lunch table conversations, the boterhammen were not quite up his alley, preferring instead the richer Croatian cuisine, where it is customary to cook meals and bring them to work as lunch. As a temporary solution, Borna took to the supermarket to purchase pre-packaged lunch meals while leaving the boterhammen to the Dutchies.

Another difference that may be a bit more tricky to overcome is the language, as Dutch has very few similarities with Croatian. According to Borna, the Dutch language sounds like a crossover between English and German; something which we hear a lot. Still, as pointed out earlier in this article, learning the Dutch language is an essential part of becoming registered as a dentist in the Netherlands.

A future in dentistry

Perhaps learning Dutch and moving back to the Netherlands will be the next step for Borna, after he obtains his dentistry degree. He has not yet made this choice, but in any case, he can look back to an enjoyable and educational period. As such, he recommends a dentistry traineeship to anyone who is eager to develop themselves professionally, and has the flexibility and willingness to learn to do so.

With the efficiency and a good balance between professional and working life, Borna already named several reasons why the Netherlands could be the best destination for a dentistry career. If you would like to learn more about what the Netherlands has to offer to you as a dentist, then by all means read the article I wrote on this subject.

Did you enjoy Borna’s story and would you like to know more about the career opportunities that Dutch dentistry has in store for you? Then check our vacancy and contact me at arjen@bgbdentistry.nl!


About the dentist

Name Borna
Country Croatia

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