Why seeking an alternative career option doesn’t mean the end of a dental career

Why seeking an alternative career option doesn’t mean the end of a dental career

Justine Nicholls discusses why continuing your learning could be key to alleviating the pressures of stress and burn out in dentistry.

As a result of the pandemic, dental teams found they must react and adapt. Repeatedly and rapidly adopting new practises and ways of working and resilience has been key. Some have found this a tough challenge but battled on. Some have sought to take a career break or pursue a different career path altogether. And some have taken the opportunity to retire.

One thing that has been clear whatever the decision, is burnout, the pressures of reduced income, uncertainty and fears for the future has had a huge impact on mental health.

Personally, the pandemic affected the almost habitual nature of my career, doing what I’ve always done for 30 years as a dental hygienist.

Mixed feelings played on my mind constantly, feeling scared, nervous, and almost grieving the normal day to day life that was before. Empathic and caring, I wanted to work. I remembered the 80s and AIDS, and how we have always managed as a profession in adopting universal precautions.

Time and money

But this virus being airborne demanded implementation of measures that would take research, time and money, in the development of a vaccine and the adaptations of social distancing, screens, PPE requirements and more.

There were worries about working with the burden of these measures, the masks, the layers of protection hindering communication and a personable approach. The latter is something I have always valued highly.

I love to smile and connect. But behind the PPE I feared I’d become indistinguishable and lose my identity

Absorbed in these feelings, I felt it important for my ability to cope, to immerse myself in learning. Therefore, I completed my practitioner diploma in reflexology during the pandemic.

Knowing I had the manual dexterity and healing abilities, the empathy and caring manner with over 30 years’ experience in a caring profession, transferrable skills, and experience made this alternative career choice effortless.


Reflexology is a such a wonderful restorative therapy. It reaches the core of one’s being in a subtle and powerful way. It is one of the few therapies which gives in equal proportion to the receiver as well as the giver.

My ethos throughout my journey in working life has always been to help others realise their whole (holistic) health and wellness. Through this ethos, the seed was planted. It has grown to create the opportunities in empowering myself to help my patients and clients both in dentistry and reflexology.

They complement each other very well. I would encourage any dental professional, still fighting with mixed feelings about their once loved career, to explore how your skills can be utilised in other professions, while still maintaining a career in dentistry.

Join me at the Alternative Professions Conference 9-10 March 2023 at Luton Hoo, Bedfordshire. Here, I will talk you through my reflexology journey. I will explain how you can successfully give 100% to patients in two professional fields.

For more information you can access the brochure. 

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