How it all started
Throughout my life, I have always been a very caring person with a desire both to help others and to take advantage of opportunities to grow in whichever career I decided to pursue. I have multiple family members working in the health industry, and they all offered me loads of valuable advice.
However, the thought of shift work did not appeal to me in the slightest, which ruled out a few options that I had in mind. I shadowed my cousin at her practice where she was a dental nurse and learned about all the additional skills she had trained to acquire. She had worked both in a dental practice and a hospital setting, and she was able to interact with and care for patients – and she enjoyed normal working hours and the option to progress and even divert to other areas within the same industry. I found this all very appealing. Being a typical Sagittarius, I love freedom, exploring new avenues and having the ability to progress both personally and within my career.
From trainee nurse to orthodontic nurse
I started emailing dental practices in search of an established practice with a keen interest in having a new trainee on board. I was offered a job at my first interview and grabbed it with both hands – it felt right, and the practice seemed very supportive. I completed my NVQ Level 3 in Dental Nursing. However, not long after this, the practice was taken over by new owners and everything changed – I went from loving my job to reconsidering my career path. I decided to arrange a meeting with my practice manager to see if there was anything the practice/company could offer to make my job feel interesting again, as I had worked hard to qualify and it seemed a shame to waste it. She suggested that I worked alongside a specialist in orthodontics. I would have additional duties, including managing all incoming and outgoing referral letters, managing busy waiting lists, and supporting the specialist by becoming his full-time nurse. I was delighted with her proposal.
After a few years of working alongside one of the nicest dentists I have ever met, I still wanted my role to develop further. I felt my job was too easy, despite having one of the busiest diaries within the twenty-seven-surgery practice and despite my additional duties. I started looking into additional courses that would complement my dentist’s skills and help us work together for longer. I undertook an NEBDN radiography course and an impression-taking course. These allowed me to take all the impressions and X-rays for our orthodontic patients, meaning I could work with my dentist more efficiently. However, this was still not enough, and I was starting to get bored again of the routine – there was no excitement. I loved the idea of becoming a dental hygienist, but the thought of becoming a full-time student really worried me – mostly from a financial perspective, as my outgoings were high and I felt that I had left it too late to consider university.
From orthodontic nurse to practice manager, writer and tutor
I spoke to the principal of the practice regarding the opportunity to become a practice manager. He shot the idea down almost immediately, telling me I was too nice to be a practice manager, the staff would walk all over me, and it would never work. This comment triggered my competitive side – I knew I could do anything within reason if I put my mind to it, and I was going to try it. I applied for a position at another practice. They had two positions available, as the practice was expanding from a three-surgery into a seven-surgery clinic. Most positions had been filled – apart from head nurse and practice manager. I applied for both and asked to be interviewed for both positions. I was thrilled when I was offered an interview date.
My interview lasted just over two hours and covered everything from general questions and personal questions through to role play. At the end, the owner of the practice said he would like to offer me a position and said I would be a perfect candidate for the practice manager position. I was ecstatic – I was only twenty-three at the time, had no experience, and had previously been told I was too nice. It really does show that if you want something in life, you shouldn’t let anyone hold you back – just keep trying until you succeed.
I had so much to learn to become a practice manager. There’s so much that happens behind the scenes of dental practices. Although I missed the clinical aspect of my previous work, my job was very interesting – I was always busy and was learning and developing both professionally and personally. Day to day, I had a team and practice relying on me for multiple things, so every day had to be a good one. I soon became a personal assistant to the owner along side my managerial role, which was a fun element to my job. I watched my team and the practice grow, and it was very rewarding to be a part of the process.
Nevertheless, based on my past experience I knew it was only a matter of time before I became complacent. I came home from work one evening and my partner told me that he had randomly come across an advert for a writer within the dental industry. He felt the position would be a great opportunity for me alongside my current role. I decided to apply and composed an article about the subject provided. I had a telephone interview and was amazed when I was chosen to work for Dental Nurse Network. It was another opportunity to stay up to date with knowledge, meet other dental professionals, and put my teaching and writing skills to the test. I have worked with Dental Nurse Network for nearly five years now, and I love how flexible and supportive Marama from DNN is in relation to my career.
After three years of practice management, I truly missed the clinical aspect of my work. The idea of becoming a dental hygienist had been on my mind, and the more I thought about it, the more I wanted to pursue it. I decided to enrol on the oral health education course and started paying off all of my outstanding finances to bring down my outgoings. I realised that a few years of struggling financially would give me a lifetime of further opportunities, so it was going to be worth it – I just had to appreciate the bigger picture.
From practice manager to dental hygiene student
I applied for the FdSc Oral Health Sciences course at the University of Essex in Southend. I knew that I was unlikely to secure a place the first time I applied, but that the experience of the interview would prepare me for future applications. I asked multiple hygienists for advice on how to increase my chances of acceptance onto the course. The best advice I received was: “If you secure an interview, you are already good enough. The interview is a chance to show your personality, so be yourself and enjoy it – that’s what will make you stand out from everyone else”.
So that is what I did – I turned up with a positive mindset, tried to stay as calm as possible, and was completely myself. I secured a place on the course, and I was so happy when I received my offer through UCAS. I worked every hour possible to pay off my outstanding finances and set off to university ready to take the next step in my career.
Qualifying as a dental hygienist was one of the most difficult tasks I have ever faced, but it was also one of the most rewarding. I worked hard, and after a few years I graduated with an overall distinction, which I’m super proud of. I remember waiting at the train station when my results came through – I was so nervous about opening the email but at the same time couldn’t open it quickly enough! When I saw my grade, I cried so much with happiness. I had FINALLY found something that fulfilled all of my professional needs and made me happy!
Dental hygienist and facial aesthetics
I secured jobs around Essex at some wonderful practices. I had to pinch myself every day that high-end practices were offering me jobs despite the fact that I didn’t have the experience that they had advertised for – my passion for the industry and background meant more to them. When dental nurses ask me how to get into dental hygiene, I always forward on the advice I received and tell them about my experiences. I tell them:
“Be yourself always, no matter what you do. Knowledge is power, so always build on your current knowledge and always grow personally and professionally. People buy into people, so be the best version of yourself and everything that you deserve will follow”.
I met some lovely people during my time in Essex and was beyond happy with my practices, but I decided to move back to the Midlands where my immediate family live and start my new life back with my loved ones. I now work at a great practice on the outskirts of Warwickshire and have a very busy diary of patients and a great team to work with. I have also undertaken additional courses in facial aesthetics, including anti-wrinkle treatments, dermal fillers and tooth whitening.
In the future I would love to become an ambassador within the dental industry and to become more advanced in periodontal treatments, perhaps working in a specialist practice or within a hospital setting to deal with more complex cases.