What was your route into dental nursing?
I knew when I was 16 that I wanted to leave school, so I spoke to my parents about what my options were, and they recommended dentistry. I was undergoing orthodontic work at the time, and I asked my orthodontist about it.
She answered my questions and gave me all the advice I needed. I did a bit of work experience, and then when I turned 16 I got a job in a local practice. I’ve been there ever since!
What qualifications have you completed, and how have they helped to develop your career?
I’ve earned two major qualifications so far: ChildSmile, which is aimed at improving oral health in young children, and my PDA Dental Managers’ course.
ChildSmile was fantastic. It gave me the tools to offer parents really good advice for their children. That’s what patients want, and educating ourselves is the best way to give them that.
I want to do much more though. I’m really enthusiastic about being a dental nurse, so within the next year or two I want to go and do my radiography course and become an oral health educator.
What are the challenges of working with children?
Well first of all I love it! You don’t always want your job to be serious – sometimes you want it to be fun. Some days are better than others, obviously.
The main challenge is in communication. You can’t use all the jargon and all the big words, so you really have to think: how can I get this across to a child? You can use models and demonstrations and have fun with them, as long as you get the message across. I think the main thing to have is patience, and lots of it!
Is there anything that frustrates you about your job?
I think that sometimes dental nurses don’t get the recognition they deserve. We do a lot in the practice and we’re often overlooked. The patients might notice the dentist but they don’t notice us.
I think it’s about finding the balance – yes, we may not be as vital as dentists, but we do an awful lot of work and we deserve some recognition for it!
What do you think nurses can do to get more recognition at work?
I think nurses should advertise themselves in the practice. They need to put themselves out there for patients and really make the difference for them. That could take the form of putting up posters, for example, which explain what kinds of services they can offer.
That way they’ll find that patients will ask them for advice, and that’s when they really will get some of the recognition they deserve.
How do you see the role of the nurse changing in the future?
I think it’s clear that nurses are going to be more hands-on clinically. There are a huge amount of courses out there and we’re going to get more stuck in and become more able to help patients. Courses will become more intense, and I think we’ll see courses expanding to be 3 or 4 years long.
What would your advice be to a nurse starting out today?
I would say: be the best nurse you can be. There are endless opportunities to go to college and to learn and to further your career, and I say go out and take those opportunities.
I understand that it can be a juggling act between learning and having a full-time job, but you can always push yourself to be the best at your job.
Hopefully you’re like me and really love your job. If you do, then pushing yourself to learn more isn’t a chore!