We’ve all been there. Getting sucked into the daily commute, doing a 9-5 in at job we know like the back of our hands. For some people, as long as they have a job they reasonably enjoy and earn enough to pay bills and have an acceptable social life, that is all they could ask for. And why should it not, happiness is key in life.
My career in dental nursing started at the age of 17. At 16 years old and doing my GCSE’s, all I was concerned about was passing with a reasonable grade. I had no idea where I wanted my life to lead me but all I knew is that University wasn’t for me. Luckily, I passed my exams and secured a place at my secondary’s school 6th form, I’d originally wanted to do English literature but I was one grade off so was pushed towards my second choice, Health and social care, and till this day, have no idea why I thought this would be a good idea. I had no interest in this subject and felt no need to work in the care sector.
After a year of being utterly miserable doing a subject I hated and still no indication of what career I wanted, my Dad who was doing building work on local Dental practice and persuaded me to hand in a CV and luckily enough I got the job as a trainee Dental nurse.
It was never meant to be long term option for me, earn a little bit of money and earn a qualification in the mean time if I ever was in need of a job, whilst planning and searching for my life long career. Well… here I am 8 years later, and as much as I hate to admit it; deep down I am passionate about Dental nursing.
Almost every dental nurse I speak to will say the same thing; ‘ im bored’, ‘ I feel underappreciated’, ‘ people only think of me a spit sucker’.
Dental nurses are a registered professional who have to by law register with a national governing body (in our case the GDC), we have to make sure as a professional we are up to date with new guidelines protocols and have to have verified records of this. We have to be competent in CPR and feel competent to deal with a medical emergency. On a daily basis we provide a clean surgery that works professionally.
But whilst on the whole I am proud of my profession and believe it such one that although can be taught to a standard that is acceptable and only a few can excel in and prove there worth, it is not taken seriously.
On a regular basis when meeting new people who enquire as to my job, I am taken aback with comments such as, ‘ so you want to be a dentist?’ , ‘so your the one who writes down the numbers’ or ‘ your the one who has the hoover’ or my favourite ‘ why would you want to do that’ and ‘but your just a dental nurse’ .
No, I don’t want to be dentist, yes I write down the numbers, and the compicated dental/medical jargon that I fully understand and have hadn’t had to have 5 years training on. Yes, I am the one with Hoover but I could just let your drown, oh and maybe not protect you tongue from sharp objects flying about. Yes, I do want to do this job and yes I enjoy it. And finally, yes I am dental nurse, but I’m a bloody good one at that.
But sometimes, I do admit, I do JUST feel like a dental nurse. Sometimes you can work for wonderful dentist who really make you feel your worth and sometimes you can work with dentist (generally the older generation) who make you feel small, inadequate and unworthy of progressing further. And sometimes you can treat a patient for 6 years, they have managed to inadvertently spit on you on several occasions, you have given them invaluable advise and they still won’t know your name or say thank you and walk straight past you like you don’t exist.
I’ve beginning to feel the latter more frequently of late. After 8 years, I know my job like the back of my hand. I could mix materials with my eyes closed and although I hate to admit it, if I closed my eyes I can picture some of the regular patients mouths in my head, I’ve seen enough fillings, extractions and root canal treatments that I think if I was to attempt one myself, I wouldn’t do to bad of a job ( don’t worry, I’m not stupid, this isn’t going to happen, I don’t fancy being struck off the register any time soon!).
For me, who unlike more people my age, is not concerned with getting marred or having children right this second, the desire and need to push myself to achieve a lifelong career in something I’m passionate about is.
Today I attended a course called ‘Extended duties for dental nurses’ and I walked away after 6 hours feeling like I could take on world. I walked away knowing that feeling inadequate as a dental nurse is only a state of mind as proved by the two speakers who each had a CV that I could only dreaming of having.
They showed us that we have every opportunity to learn skills that can benefit patient, practice and ourselves.
They showed us we are not just dental nurses, we are not just the ones with Hoover and no we didn’t fail at being a dentist, we won at being a dental nurse!