A career in dentistry wasn’t something I had ever considered. Initially, I wanted to be a surgeon or a police officer … I know two roles that are poles apart from each other. However, despite being classed as above average academically, there were too many shiny things that distracted me, and I didn’t achieve the grades required for either of those careers.
One day, I was moping around the house when my mother returned from her routine dental appointment and informed me that I would be starting work on the following Monday as a trainee dental nurse at the dental practice we all attended. Just like that (because you never argue with your mother), I started an on/off relationship with dental nursing that has lasted over thirty years.
Since my first foray into the world of dentistry, I have nursed in NHS/private practices and at the Birmingham Dental Hospital (BDH). I have also assumed the role of manager in both of these environments. I have experienced the introduction of so many changes in this area of healthcare, from the wearing of Personal Protective Equipment (something that is now seen as a basic requirement), to registration for dental nurses and other dental care providers.
As my career has progressed, I have also taken on the role of examiner for the NEBDN, and have mentored and assessed trainee dental nurse students within the private/NHS surgery environment and during my time at the Birmingham Dental Hospital. I have found this extremely rewarding, especially when I see those I have tutored pass their exams and go on to have fulfilling careers. If you are considering becoming more involved with assessing and examining student dental nurses, or even devising exam questions, I strongly suggest you visit the NEBDN website regularly, where you will see these roles posted.
Ever keen for a new challenge, I am a DCP member of the Fitness to Practice Committee (FTP), for the General Dental Council (GDC). I have found this role fascinating and rewarding. It has also informed the way I conduct myself as a dental professional. This is something I try to pass on to my colleagues in order to help them make informed choices regarding their professional and social lives. The GDC sends out emails to all registrants when they have vacancies for FTP roles. The training provided is excellent, and everyone involved with the process is supportive and approachable, so that a role that can seem quite daunting is anything but.
My experience as an FTP member has also brought to light something extremely concerning with regard to DCPs and their lack of legal representation when they come before the GDC. It appears that the majority of dental nurses only have indemnity through their practice principal. This will only cover any litigation where they have to compensate someone financially. It does not cover them for legal representation if they come before their regulator. This puts them in a very weak position from the start. I implore every nurse I meet to ensure that their indemnity covers them for every eventuality. I know it can be expensive, but believe me, when your career is on the line, it will be money well spent.
During the pandemic, I have been using my skills in a completely different area. I am employed as a registered vaccinator and am proud to have provided Oxford AstraZeneca and Pfizer vaccinations while based at many different sites across Birmingham. Members of the public attending these centres have often been extremely frightened, and this fear can present itself in many different ways. I have experienced aggression, hysteria, fainting, and even people who haven’t been able to speak because they are so scared. These reactions are not unknown to me because I have experienced them so many times before in dental practice. This has helped me deal with each situation effectively and professionally.
Since gaining an NVQ3 in dental nursing, I have gone on to gain further post-graduation qualifications. I have an Advanced Dental Nurse Degree (University of Kent), Dental Radiography, Phlebotomy, Oral Health Education and Level 3 Award in Education and Training.
I now intend to focus solely on the assessing, mentoring and teaching of trainee dental nurses and hope that I can provide them with the high-quality skills that are being demanded throughout the industry.
Whether you are just starting your training or are an established dental nurse, the world of dentistry can offer you so much. I would heartily encourage you to study for as many post-graduate qualifications as possible. Yes, it is hard work, but the rewards outweigh that. The dentists who are entering the profession now are far more progressive in their thinking, and this allows dental nurses to play an enhanced role within the practice. Changes within the care home system are hopefully going to require closer links with dental practices. Mouth Care Matters is one such project that requires qualified oral health practitioners to go into residential homes to provide training to staff so that residents have better oral hygiene and everyone understands the importance of a healthy mouth for the rest of the body. Whether you decide you want to go into management or teaching, or remain in nursing, the scope of practice for dental nurses is expanding all the time. It is definitely an exciting time to be in the profession.