Taking the plunge

Some years ago, amidst the two years I spent doing my A-levels, I would not have seen myself where I am today. I had made the decision quite early on that I wouldn’t be following my peers to university, discarding the option because at that time in my life I felt it just wasn’t my best option. Instead I thought it much better to work, and ever since leaving the sixth form with three A-levels I haven’t looked back.

When I left school I enrolled onto a Business Administration apprenticeship, working within the NHS as a ward administrator and through this gained my NVQ levels 2 & 3. Although administration isn’t actually now something I would see myself doing, it was a fantastic eye-opener to a world with patients and I really wanted to be more involved.

I can’t say what exactly drove me towards dental nursing. I remember as a teenager, like many, I had braces and although I didn’t think it much at the time, trips to the dentist and indeed the orthodontist were always interesting; I was intrigued by the seemingly different language spoken when professionals examined my pearly whites.

After some research on the internet and having a couple of observational visits to my local dental surgery and orthodontist, I applied to two dental nurse training schools in London and was asked to interviews for both. At the end of January this year I gained a position for the February intake at Kings College Hospital (rotating also over two other London hospitals – Guys and St Thomas’).

Within 20 days of being sent the news I had packed up my life in Plymouth, left my job, my friends and family and relocated to my new accommodation in London. Living away from home for the first time and ready to begin a new chapter of my life as an independent living trainee dental nurse, it was as scary as it was exciting.

Two-year programme

And here I am, a good few months on after starting and I haven’t looked back since. To become qualified I need at least two years of working as a dental nurse, which is why the course is that long.

However, I am set to take the National Exam in dental nursing next May and, on successfully passing, I would be able to say I am qualified but would still need those extra months until the following February to receive a certificate in saying so.

The first three months of the course were spent doing brief two-week rotations in various departments over both Kings and Guy’s sites, including one day of the week spent in a teaching session. Rotations after the induction time last for five weeks.

For me, the months leading up to next May will be a mixture of further rotations to widen my experience as a dental assistant in various specialities such as oral surgery, periodontology and orthodontics. The teaching sessions, although still keeping to just the one day a week, will intensify for the tutors to cover everything needed for the National Exam.

All training has its less interesting areas than others, but my most memorable feel-good moment occurred while working in oral surgery when a patient specifically complimented the dentist I was working with at the time and me by writing in after treatment, complimenting us both on something we didn’t think was particularly out of the ordinary for our routine patient care.

However, it obviously demonstrated how the smallest of things can make the biggest of differences to patients in particular and the confidence it brings to staff when they know they’re doing a good job with satisfying results all round. It has made taking the plunge to move away and pursue dental nursing a worthwhile experience and has been something I have discovered to be something I really enjoy and continually embrace daily.

My fellow trainees and I can’t wait to qualify and be released into dental practices.

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