A student’s week: I need a scalpel, sutures, and anaesthesia

It seems as if Klára Drápalová was born with a dental drill in her hand. That is how excited she is about her studies. But even though her studies take up a lot of her time, this energetic student somehow manages to fit a number of hobbies and other activities into her schedule and help take care of her younger siblings, as if it was no big deal. What does a week in the life of a dental student look like?

Klára’s regular week is punctuated by drilling. “From Monday to Friday, we have Restorative Dentistry, where we treat dental caries. On Monday, Wednesday and Thursday, we bring our own patients to the St. Anne’s University Hospital. So, one of our tasks is to find people who are brave enough for that. Mostly its family members or friends who bear the brunt of our training,” Klára, now in the fourth year of her Dentistry studies, says with a laugh.

On Tuesday and Friday, she hones her drilling skills at the Faculty of Medicine using “phantom heads” – model heads used for training. As Klára describes her training sessions, “I always try to convince my patients to let me apply local anaesthesia, so that they don’t have to suffer while they’re in the dental chair. We are still learning and it takes us time to complete the drilling. The patients spend a long time in the chair, so it’s much more comfortable for them if it’s done under anaesthesia.”

Klára smiles as she describes her passion for dentistry: “I’m ecstatic when I get a patient with tooth decay. When I was in my first year of primary school, I came home from my appointment at our local village dentist and said, ‘Mummy, Daddy, when I grow up, I want to be a dentist!’ I find the work incredibly enjoyable and fulfilling.”

When Klára’s Monday drilling practice session ends at 1 p.m., she picks up her younger sister from a special needs school to drive her home to Křenovice, which is about ten miles from Brno. This is also where Klára commutes every day from to Brno.

“I have three biological siblings and my parents also adopted three children from a children’s home. My younger sister has moderate intellectual disability; my mum drives her to school and I pick her up three times a week. Michalka is a lovely child and my favourite,” says Klára.

In her opinion, disabled children are completely pure-hearted and very grateful for everything. Thinking aloud, Klára says, “When she senses that something is wrong, she hugs me and gives me a kiss. Ever since she came to live with us, I am a much happier person. I used to complain about many things, but now I feel I have nothing to complain about. My sister will never know what it’s like to extract someone’s tooth or give them an anaesthesia injection – even though that might not sound so tempting to most people.”

I exercise, therefore I am
After driving her sister home, Klára returns to Brno. She is meeting a friend at the Česká street at half past four. On weekdays, studying, sports, and meeting friends take up Klára’s afternoons. She usually comes home quite late. Klára’s schedule is hectic, but she describes it with a radiant expression on her face: “I get home between eight and nine in the evening. If I come back before half past seven, I help brush the teeth of my little siblings. I have a lot to do, but I enjoy it.”

On Tuesday morning, Klára gets up at five a.m. – just like any other day when she has practice sessions at the hospital and commutes to Brno to the Faculty of Medicine. Starting from early morning, she and her classmates will be practising dental drilling on phantom heads. And there is a lot more that awaits her after school. Klára’s Tuesday is mostly about sports.

Klára lists the exhaustingly long series of activities that fill her Tuesday: “In the afternoon, I pick up my sister after her speech and language therapy appointment and I take her to the swimming pool at Kraví hora. Two of the three children in my family have a swimming class there between four and five, while I play with the third one in the bubbles. Then it’s my turn to swim for an hour – I attend a swimming class taught by a professional swimming coach. Afterwards, I have a Pilates class beginning at half past seven and then I drive home,” she says. She goes on to add, “I couldn’t live without sports. I’ve been addicted to exercise since I was a little girl.”

Klára does not have any patients for Wednesday morning; instead, she will be assisting other students during their training sessions. As she explains, “There are twenty people in our group and everyone must have their turn.”

“The drilling ends at 1 p.m., then I go to pick up my sister, I drive her home and I come back to Brno for a Pilates class. If I have an exam coming up, I study in the afternoon; otherwise I catch up with my friends and then drive home and dance in the evening. When I was at grammar school, I used to do Latin and Standard dances, so if I get the chance, I turn up the music and dance in my room until ten or eleven at night.”

Tooth extraction is fun
Thursday brings another drilling practice session at St. Anne’s University Hospital. “I have an appointment with a patient with a lot of caries. It’s her third visit and I’m already looking forward to the drilling. But what I like most is surgical work and periodontics. I just love injecting anaesthesia and I also enjoy extracting teeth. One might think I’m a bit sadistic, but I just need blood, scalpel, sutures and anaesthesia to be a completely happy dentist. I really enjoy fine manual work,” says Klára.

Afterwards, she leaves for her clinical practice at a dental clinic in the centre of Brno, starting at three in the afternoon and finishing at half past seven. “I usually have my clinical practice on Thursday and Friday afternoons. I have around six patients every week. During my practice sessions, I remove tartar build-up, I clean teeth and I also teach patients the proper brushing and flossing technique. It helps me feel more confident with drilling at my training sessions. I learn how to sit close to the dental chair and how to position my patients. It’s a great way to learn the basics.” After her clinical practice, Klára ends the day with a tennis lesson.

“My Fridays are the same as my Thursdays, but I stay at the dental clinic till eight. Afterwards, I either go home or catch up with my friends,” says Klára, finally reaching the end of her list of weekly activities. “I enjoy life, my studies, the people around me, and all my activities and hobbies. When you love what you do, everything in life is easier,” she laughs.

Masaryk university