Kirsten Schimmel has been working with DPA Dentistry as an account manager for 3 years. However, she has been active in the dentistry sector for many more years. Kirsten talks about her work and shares her insight into Dutch dentistry, the growing contribution of dentists from other European countries, and what it takes to have a successful dentistry career in the Netherlands.1. Can you tell us something about how you started working for DPA?
I’ve been an account manager with DPA Dentistry for 3 years. Before I started working here, I was a manager at 3 dental clinics. When I was looking for a dentist, I got in touch with DPA. They had a lovely candidate for our clinic in Apeldoorn. After working together for 2-3 years, during which I employed 3 DPA dentists, I liked the company so much that I applied for a job. I had an interview and soon after, I was DPA’s newest account manager.
2. Where did the dentists who worked in your clinics come from?
All three dentists working in the different clinics arrived here from Spain. The Spanish dentist who went to The Hague still works there. In Apeldoorn we employed a dentist who is originally from Cuba but got his degree in Spain. He still works there and he’ll even take over the clinic this year. The third dentist is also from Spain and still works in the clinic Vaassen.
3. As an account manager, what are your responsibilities at DPA?
It is my duty to find a job for the dentists, so I am the link between the clinic and the candidate. I’ve been working in the dentistry sector for many years, and during that time I’ve built up an expansive network; I know a lot of clinics. So the moment a dentist arrives in the Netherlands, I make sure they can start working at a good clinic.
4. If a dentist wants to work in a different part of the country than where they are now, do you take care of that as well?
Yes, I take care of everything. My ultimate goal is to make sure that all the dentists are happy with their work. I would like for them to feel at home, both at their jobs and in the Netherlands as a whole. This is why I take care of everything work-related: contracts, finding a clinic, salary negotiations, and so on. You are at your clinic 5 days a week, so it is important that everything there is in order.
5. The Netherlands has had a shortage of homegrown dentists for many years now. As a result, it has become much more common to see one or more dentists in a clinic who are originally from another country. Do you still run into clinics who have to get used to the idea of a foreign colleague?
No, that sentiment has become much rarer. When I started 3 years ago, I had to make much more of an effort to convince clinics to let me introduce my candidates to them. By contrast, we now have over 20 vacancies for the dentist groups of the coming season. It’s just not an issue anymore. Adding to that, they also speak Dutch, so it’s a much smaller step to start working in the Netherlands, both for the dentist and the clinic.
6. What is the level of Dutch of the dentists when they arrive here?
They have to speak Dutch at B2 level, because that is what they need in order to pass the language exam and obtain their BIG registration. In short, after 4 months of studying at the DPA Academy, the dentists speak Dutch at a very high level.
7. Do the dentists succeed in reaching that level and applying it in their work?
Yes, they do. In the beginning, they generally do find it a bit exciting to start using the language in their daily work, but they are always supported by an experienced assistent who helps them in their communication with the patient. But even by itself, their Dutch is more than good enough to properly explain treatments to their patients.
8. You have been active in the dentistry sector since long before you joined DPA, so you have years of experience working with both Dutch dentists and dentists from other European countries. Do you notice a lot of differences between those two groups?
When it comes to their professional knowledge and capabilities, there is little difference. A dentist from another EU country will have more or less the same level of knowledge and skill as a Dutch dentist. The biggest difference remains, of course, the language. If you were born and raised here, it is simply easier at times to communicate something to a patient. On the other hand, I know plenty of foreign dentists whose command of Dutch is so strong that you can hardly tell the difference.
Sometimes, you can notice small differences in the culture. For example, in Holland we are used to being quite up-front about a lot of things, and a dentist from Spain might initially experience this as a bit rude. However, when it comes to the professional side of things, there really isn’t that much of a difference.
9. We’ve talked about differences, but what is the thing that Dutch dentists and dentists from abroad have the most in common?
The love for the profession. You have to like dentistry, and when you do, it doesn’t matter what country you are from.10. Outside of the surplus of dentists in other countries and the shortage in the Netherlands: what value does a career in Dutch dentistry hold for someone who moves here for work?
We offer them a good, modern dental clinic with good working conditions, but perhaps even more importantly, they can develop themselves here. You can learn so much here: with the amount of available courses, you can develop into an allround dentist, or specialize in your favorite area of dentistry. Dentistry in the Netherlands is at a high level, and for a foreign dentist that provides excellent opportunities.
11. What do you think makes someone a good dentist?
A good dentist is a proficient communicator who can empathize with the patient and find a fitting solution to every problem. In addition to these skills, the dentist is also strong from a technical point of view. They know what they are talking about and they keep developing themselves to stay up-to-date on the latest techniques. Finally, it is important that a dentist is a pleasant and social person. When you combine all these features, I think you have the ideal dentist.
On that note, you do notice that the dentists who come here from abroad bring a certain vibe with them into the clinic. A country like Spain is different than the sober Netherlands, and Dutch dentistry is enriched by this.
12. And do you like working with these people?
Certainly. I work with fun, social people who are grateful when you help them start a new career in the Netherlands. This is also the best part of my work: when I walk into a clinic and see the dentist in their outfit, and I can just tell they are right where they want to be. Whenever I experience a moment like that, it just makes my day and I drive back home singing in my car.
13. Some of the people reading this might be dentists who are still studying in countries such as Spain, Portugal and Romania. If they already have the desire to come work in the Netherlands, what is some advice you can give them?
First and foremost, I’d advice them to ‘make a lot of miles’, so to speak. Meaning that you should treat as many patients as you can, especially in the area of general dentistry. Having a specialization is always good, but it is not a requirement. The most important part is that you spend a lot of time in your chair treating patients in all sorts of disciplines, such as check-ups, crowns, root canal treatments, etc. If you have knowledge of all areas of general dentistry, and you have been able to put that knowledge to practice by treating patients, you have a pretty big head-start.
14. Is there a difference between countries in terms of how well the candidates tend to meet that standard?
There is a difference. Not just between countries, but between universities. Some universities put more emphasis on practical learning than others. Regardless, I would always advice to work a few months after graduating. Volunteer work is good, too. Then you get a good idea of what it is like to work with patients on a day-to-day basis.
15. Dentists who come to the Netherlands often have the desire to start working in big cities such as Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Den Haag and Utrecht: the Western metropolitan area we call the Randstad. However, there are lots of opportunities in provinces in the East and South, such as Overijssel and Brabant. What are the advantages for a dentist to choose these areas outside of the Randstad?
Most dentists want to go to Amsterdam, Den Haag and Rotterdam, often simply because that is what they are familiar with in the Netherlands. But there is so much more to the country than just those cities. There are a lot of good clinics in the east of the country, where you will also have the space and time to develop yourself. There, you will not have the same pressure that you will feel in the big city. In Amsterdam, for example, you can find a dental clinic on practically every street. In the Randstad in general, it is much harder to retain a patient than it is in eastern cities such as Enschede, Zwolle and Hengelo. I’m from the east myself, and here we have some of the finest dental clinics, and they offer you good working conditions and career growth opportunities.
16. Is it possible to find a job in the big city?
It’s definitely possible, but it is a lot more difficult to find work there, simply because the shortage of dentists is a lot less severe. The three universities where Dutch dentists are trained can be found in Nijmegen, Amsterdam and Groningen, and the people who get their degree there usually stick around in those cities. Competition is also greater in the big cities: if you don’t take the job, someone else will. In the east, the shortage is larger.
Besides, we should not forget that places such as Enschede and Zwolle, both in the east of the country, are incredible cities with lots of students and young people. They might not be as well-known as Amsterdam, Rotterdam and The Hague, but they are still pretty big cities where there’s plenty to do. And even if you do want to go to Amsterdam, just grab a train in Enschede and you’ll be there in 90 minutes. Holland is not that big, and everything is connected through roads and public transport.
17. Because of your experience, you have a good overview of the Dutch dentistry sector. What do you think is going to change in coming years? What is the part of foreign dentists in Dutch clinics?
First of all, I think the shortage of dentists will be even bigger. There are a lot of dentists set to retire between now and 3 years. By now, the ministry has made plans to expand the number of available places for new dentistry students, but even if that all goes through, it won’t nearly be enough to make up for the growing shortage. This is why I think dentists from abroad will keep getting a larger role in compensating for the shortage. For dentists this means there are a lot of great opportunities in the Netherlands.18. Do you have a fun anecdote involving one of the dentists or clinics you’ve worked with?
I have plenty! Just last week I was visiting a dentist who had just bought his own bicycle. He had never ridden one before, but he still wanted to learn how to do it so he could really fit in to the culture.
Two other dentists went to a schlager music artist. Of course that’s more German than Dutch, but still something you’re more likely to encounter here than in Southern Europe. It’s just beautiful to see pictures of them going all crazy at such an event. I don’t know whether they could sing along, but at least they enjoyed themselves and they experienced something that they might not even have found out about at home.
There are countless examples like this: dentists who join a tennis club and make new friends there, dentists with Dutch boyfriends or girlfriends, dentists who feel so at home in the Netherlands that they decide to buy a house here.
19. And that is what makes your job all worth it, right?
Of course, that’s the best part of this work: people who feel totally at home here, are a part of the community and even appear from time to time in local newspapers with great stories. When I see all of that, I can only smile and be proud of the dentists who work here.
At the end of the day we are a company, and companies do business, but it also feels personal. It is good to know that there are dentists who come to the Netherlands through DPA, and go on to have good careers and satisfying lives here.