10 Things I Wish I Would Have Known Before I Took Boards

I know a lot of you students are preparing to take National written and clinical boards in the next few weeks. Bah! So close! Let’s pause right here just for a moment of congratulations; you have made it this far! Can you see the light at the end of the tunnel? From my own experience, and the experience of my colleagues, here are 10 things that will help you navigate boards with greater ease and finally get you to the end of that tunnel: 

#1 Cut Out Distractions 
Does this story next sound familiar?  You have planned two hours for some study time and then your phone dings…20 minutes later you crack open your book ready to start. Your phone then flashes; a new Instagram post…15 minutes gone.  Beep beep......a post reminds you to check that video on Facebook…another 45 minutes, poof, gone. You have 40 minutes left of study time and you decide to get serious so you Snapchat a pic of you studying hard with your book. You snap another pic of you chewing your pencil and the next thing you know study time is UP. Does this all sound familiar? When I was studying for boards I had a classmate change my Facebook password so I couldn't log in for 2 months. It saved me time, sanity and helped me focus. To this day my password is still boards suck with my classmate's birthday digits at the end. I smile every time I have to type it in. 

#2 Take Care of Yourself 
Sleep. Eat good things. Sleep. Drink water and did I mention sleep? 

#3 Prepare What You Can Ahead of Time and Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff. 
Write up everything you can beforehand. Make sure all of your ID’s are exactly the same (if your ID has your middle initial in it ALL of your ID's must use your middle initial.) 

#4 Have a Plan
 As far as clinical boards is concerned, remember you have cleaned this type of calculus before. Create a sequence that works for you. My preferred sequence was: Ultrasonic with the triple bend, handscale with area specifics, explore, use your files to crunch any tough spots, return to ultrasonic with the slimline or thinsert, explore, probe and record recession, finish with handscaling any remaining calc. and submit your patient with confidence. I told my patient to think clean thoughts as she passed the point of no return entering the examiners operatories. 

#5 Failure Isn’t the End
 I failed the written anesthesia test the first time I took it. I had driven with some classmates from Utah to California to take the test at USC. We stayed in this hilariously rundown hotel and the campus smelled funny. Back then, we took the test in a classroom, on a piece of paper, with a pencil, a PENCIL. After the test I waited outside of the classroom for results. While we waited we stupidly tried to compare what we answered with each other until the proctor came out and handed each of us an envelope which had a pass or fail slip inside. I opened my envelope and saw those dreaded words. FAIL. I cried…a lot. I learned where I needed to study more,  compassion for others who failed, to curb my comparing, and that failing can be a positive thing. I am a better clinician, colleague, teacher, and friend because of that fail. You can take the test again, really you can. In the meantime… 

#6 Plan for Success 
Obviously you aren't planning to fail. My failure taught me how to plan, progress, and PASS! Visualize it. Talk nice to yourself. I even drew myself as a stick figure, surrounded myself with words of affirmation, and drew a cap and gown on my stick figure body holding a diploma in one hand and a syringe in another! Keep yourself in a growth mindset not a set mindset. Passing boards isn't the end of your professional education. 

# 7 Don’t Compare 
Oh I could write a dissertation about this but, I’ll spare you. Worry about yourself and what you know. Comparison kills. It kills motivation, friendships, kindness and karma. Speaking of karma… 

#8 Karma is a Real Thing 
Karma is a real thing especially when prepping for tests. If you hear about a great boards review class, tell your friends. If you find a book that has been super helpful, tell your friends. If you find an extra boards patient, share with your friends. I have seen it over and over again, those who help each other win with each other. 

#9 Case Studies 
An alarming majority of people I talked with told me they wish they had studied more case studies. The application of 100’s of hours of school in real life scenarios; case studies. The stuff you will see in practice, case studies. The stuff you will be tested on, case studies. Study up, this is soon to be your life! 

#10 You Aren't Just Studying for Boards 
 Newsflash, being a dental hygienist is going to be your PROFESSION! The things you will be tested on actually help you in your soon to be job. You will need to retain a lot of this information for real life. 

You've got this. See you on the other side Colleagues!