Making the choice to step down from Practice Manager and back into dental nursing was an easy one, albeit one that certainly got raised eyebrows from peers.
Getting back to the career that I was genuinely passionate about meant that I could concentrate on my direction as a dental nurse, widen my knowledge and skills, be my dentists’ right hand, as well as looking into other ways that I could use all I have learned to assist my peers and colleagues. That’s why I decided my next move would be into teaching trainee students.
Having practised dental nursing for over 8 years, you would have thought it would be an easy transition; think again.
And so here I am, writing my first blog and hoping that by sharing my experiences I can motivate and inspire those who have chosen this incredible, exhausting, all-consuming but amazing pathway, dental nursing.
When I started teaching over 3 years ago, I was faced with a number of challenges. As well as my own personal insecurities I was having to support several disgruntled, under-paid trainee dental nurses who were despondent and close to giving up on their qualification.
Turning these students around and supporting them through sometimes difficult situations and tough expectations inspired me to look at why trainee dental nurses were finding their training so challenging.
Initially I was able to identify that my new students seem to have the illusion that dental nursing is always a glamorous job. Now I am not saying it doesn’t have its moments, but we all know that there is more gore than glamour! My belief is that by course providers portraying dental nurses as individuals dressed in fancy tunics, with pristine attire and in a permanent state of joy, they give the impressions that nursing is a breeze of a vocation.
My role as a tutor has had to include educating my new recruits of this misconception during their induction. I find that my students are best equipped for their dental nursing career if they are informed at the very beginning that the best dental nurses must have the following qualities and skills:
- Compliance with all legislations and keep a log of all their training.
- Have a continuous and relentless thirst for learning and improvement.
- Be able to manage their time efficiently as well as being able to multi-task, whilst having an eye for detail.
- Excellent communication skills and being naturally empathetic.
- To be a team-player, willing to both support other team members and accept help whenever required.
- Embrace the General Dental Council Standards for The Dental Team and HTM (Health Technical Memorandum) 01-05 which will become one of your favourite documents.
- Maintain a (healthy) obsession of the oral cavity and anything related to it.
- An understanding that occasionally you will be splattered with bodily fluids, saliva, sick and blood (hence the emphasis on HTM01-05 and cross infection control!!).
I often get questioned why do, we, as dental nurses, need to have in-depth knowledge of not only various dental procedures, but also of the human anatomy and physiology. My response to this, is that the best dental nurses are always a few steps ahead of the game.
Expanding your knowledge and skills ensures you are up-to-date with current legislation as well as being able to review protocols and processes. Making you more efficient and improving your patient’s journey. Instilling confidence as a team, in turn advancing the quality of care.
Keeping students motivated throughout their 12 months training course is tough but I have learned that the best way to keep them motivated is communication. Keeping in touch either via group messaging or email and sharing any medical and dental articles and videos that have caught my eye. This seems to be very effective resulting in my students sharing their editorials and research with myself and their classmates.
Teaching is not about reading aloud from a book or PowerPoint presentation and giving out homework. It is about a co-operation, compromise and clear discussions between the tutor and learner. It’s about sharing their experiences, debating ideas, supporting and inspiring one another.
My long-term goal is to motivate trainee dental nurses to be the best versions of themselves – on both a personal and professional level.
Teaching is hard work, exhausting and sometime frustrating but I would say one of the most rewarding, fun things I have ever done. I am thankful for the enthusiastic individuals taking on this dental nursing journey and I am proud to be a source of support, encouragement and motivation to my students, as they are to me.