Dental Nursing – My Career and My Passion

profsarahI left school at sixteen and knew that moving away to attend university wasn’t right for me, although I was unsure what career path I wished to take. I decided to attend a local college and study an HNC in Administration and Information Technology. My HNC was completed a year later and I began a job as an administration and accounts assistant in a local business.

Soon I realised that it was not what I wanted to do in the long term. I went on to apply for a trainee dental nurse position in my town’s private dental practice. Since then, there has been no holding me back and I have worked extremely hard to get to where I am today! 

Dental Nursing Career

I spent two years training to become a dental nurse in the private practice and attained my SVQ Level 3 in Dental Nursing in 2008. Once I was qualified, I moved to an NHS practice where I worked for four years. This position allowed me many opportunities to work in all aspects of dental nursing. To begin with, I spent two years working alongside dental and therapy students. I enjoyed sharing experiences and knowledge with the students and built up a great friendship with the dental nursing team – we all still keep in touch to this day! This role allowed me to organise clinical skills sessions for the students and prepare stations for OSCEs. I also mentored several dental nurses and felt proud to do so. I enjoyed seeing trainees develop into confident, qualified dental nurses. From this, I knew I wanted to work towards a career in management and teaching dental nursing. Whilst working for the NHS, I nursed in GA sessions, RA sessions, anxious children sessions and oral surgery sessions. My eyes were opened up to all the opportunities available to me as a dental nurse. Whilst working for the NHS, I was awarded funding to complete my Oral Health Education Certificate in 2010. These skills were put to use by running oral health education sessions and producing presentations for waiting room areas.

In 2011, I met a lovely Irishman and fell in love. A year later, I had relocated to Ireland! Within a few days of living in Ireland and sending out my CV, I had secured a position as a dental nurse in an implant clinic. I really enjoyed my short time assisting with implant placement and oral surgery procedures. However, it was only a part-time job. I then went on to work in a private practice in the centre of Derry, where I became Senior Dental Nurse. This role also provided me with an opportunity to mentor dental nurses. A year later, I decided to broaden my horizons and moved to another private practice in Derry, where I took on the role of Trainee Practice Manager/Senior Dental Nurse. The dentists I worked with were extremely supportive and encouraged me to complete my Radiography, Clinical Photography, Impression Taking and Practice Management Certificates. I gained so much more confidence by working with such a great team. In the role, I learned a lot about policies, procedures and practice inspections.

I married my lovely Irishman in 2014, and in 2015 we decided to move back to Scotland to settle. Prior to returning to Scotland, I applied for a Dental Nurse Team Leader post within the NHS and was successful. This role has opened my eyes to the management aspect of dental nursing and has provided me with experience – but I do miss my clinical role. I am still trying to determine if it is realistic to work in management but also maintain my clinical skills.

What Next

In the last few months, I have become an examiner for NEBDN. I examined at the Dental Nursing OSCEs in Belfast this year and thoroughly enjoyed being part of the examining team. I was also nominated for the Scottish Dental Awards DCP Star of 2016 and made it to the shortlist. The Scottish Dental Awards ceremony takes place on Friday 13th May 2016 and I am very much looking forward to attending it.

At present I am self-funding my Award in Education and Training in the hope that I can help with dental nurse training in the future. I feel that the opportunity to share my skills and experience with others would be fantastic. There are so many pathways to take in the role of dental nurse, and I think it’s really important to work hard and strive to learn more. In dental nursing, you don’t have to specialise in one area – there is the opportunity to excel in all fields! It’s fantastic to see how many more career opportunities and courses have become available throughout the years. I have now been dental nursing for almost ten years, and it remains my passion!

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