Mira, dental nurse

My name is Mira and I'm a qualified dental nurse.

I started working as a trainee dental nurse for Islay and Jura Dental Practice in January 2019. In December 2020, I obtained my SQA SVQ Level 3 and PDA qualifications in Dental Nursing, by doing a Modern Apprenticeship in Dental Nursing programme. The programme is provided by NHS Education for Scotland (NES).

Tell us about your journey towards completing the Modern Apprenticeship in Dental Nursing?

The first steps in my journey towards completing the Modern Apprenticeship was to register for the induction programme, Work Safely. I was then sent an induction pack.

The programme was clearly structured, so it was easy for me to follow and understand. It included 7 weeks of training in the practice, an online study day and an online assessment. I also had to complete an orientation pack.

Following the successful completion of the dental nurse induction, I was awarded the Dental Nursing: Introduction to Safe Working Practices within the Dental Environment qualification at SCQF Level 5. I was also able to register for the Pre-registration Dental Nurse Training programme.

While I waited for the course start date, I joined the Protecting Vulnerable Groups (PVG) scheme managed by Disclosure Scotland and got a Hepatitis B vaccine, so I could provide chair-side support to the dentist.

When I started the modern apprenticeship, I was sent the ‘Student Handbook – Scottish Vocational Qualification & Professional Development Award in Dental Nursing’ in the post. This handbook provided me information relating the qualification I was enrolled for.
It also allowed me to identify what was expected from me as a dental nurse student and made me aware of the support and guidance that I was going to receive from NES staff at the training centre.

I was also sent the course textbook ‘Levison’s Textbook for Dental Nurses, (2013) 11th edition'. It helped me with my learning throughout the course and to prepare for my assessments.

While doing the course, I also had the opportunity to work in the surgery and offer chair-side support to the dentist. I found it to be a huge positive, as you learn on the job and get the experience you need while working towards your qualifications.

The course units helped me to develop the knowledge and skills required to demonstrate my competence in my role as a dental nurse. I also produced Portfolio of Evidence, including personal statements, product and personal statement, expert witness testimony, reflective accounts, questions, workplace observation and progress reviews.

My assessor had a huge input to this. She was very patient and supportive, knowledgeable and encouraging, friendly and easy to approach. My assessor always made sure that I clearly understood everything before I moved on. In my opinion, in such a difficult time, the NES staff at the training centre were focused on the situation and everyone was incredibly supportive.

During the modern apprenticeship, I also needed to complete Level 5 Core Skills. It helped me to evaluate my knowledge and skills in communication, numeracy, information and communication technology (ICT), working with others and problem solving. Completing the Core Skills units also allowed me to identify the areas that I need to improve on. I have been certificated on SQA Connect.

How has doing the Modern Apprenticeship helped you? How will it benefit your future career goals?

It helped me to obtain the SQA SVQ Level 3 and the PDA in Dental Nursing, so I could register with General Dental Council (GDC) and practice as dental nurse.

Once fully qualified, there are a wide range of career opportunities to explore as a dental nurse. I could do further training, so I can undertake additional responsibilities including oral health education, radiography and taking impressions. I could choose the dental hygienist path or even work towards becoming a dentist.

Describe a typical day

When I arrive at work, I get changed into my uniform and carry out hand hygiene procedures. I'm then ready to set up the surgery in line with Standard Infection Control Precautions (SICP). If there are any Aerosol Generating Procedures (AGP) booked in, I get the surgery ready for those. Afterwards, the room is left vacant with the door closed. When the aerosols have settled, all surfaces in the surgery are cleaned with a neutral detergent and then cleaned again with disinfectant.

As a dental nurse, I also:

  • reassure the patients
  • provide chair-side support to the dentist
  • help with reception if needed
  • take notes when the dentist does an oral assessment
  • manage and store deliveries
  • close down the surgery in line with SICP’s
  • stock up the surgery for next day

What are the most important skills for you to do your job well?

The most important skills for me to do my job well include organisation, good communication with patients and colleagues, attention to detail and teamwork.

How did you organise your time between work and study?

I created a study timeline to keep track and planned to study for at least an hour every day. To achieve this, I tried to figure out when my peak energy period was. I prioritised important tasks and set time limits. I also started to eliminate distractions, including Facebook, my mobile phone, tv and anything else I knew would distract me during my study hour.

Can you tell us about the delivery of the training programme, study days and assessments? How did online training compare with face to face training?

My online study days were every fortnight from 9am to 12:30pm.

Lessons always engaging and simple to understand. I really did enjoy the online training! I was good to participate from home, while I can see, hear and speak to my tutor and colleagues and take part to the course.

The only disadvantage I can think of right now is when something happened with my computer or internet connection during the training session. However, my assessor managed to send me the recording of the session, which I found very handy and I was very happy that I did not miss anything.

SOLAR Assessments were great practice for my PDA exams and they were open book. I needed 80% minimum to pass. PDA exams took 30 minutes to complete the test and I needed 65% minimum to pass. Initially they were done under my assessor’s supervision when she came to the practice for my workplace observation and 13 weeks review. During the pandemic, assessments were invigilated and done online.

What do you like most about your job?

Everything! I really cannot choose right now! I need time to decide!

What parts of your job do you find the most challenging?

Wearing FFP3 mask and surgical gown, but fingers crossed it will not be for too long! Apart from that I love the challenges that arise in my job.

What advice would you give to others thinking about applying as a dental nurse and embarking on the Modern Apprenticeship programme?

If you are an organised, carrying, calm, compassionate person, a good listener and able to relate to a wide range of people and you have not decided yet about your career, applying for the Modern Apprenticeship in Dental Nursing programme is a great option!

Just go for it! You will have the opportunity to earn a salary and enjoy on the job training.

It will allow you to achieve valuable skills and experience in dental nursing and improve your CV when you're finished training. You will also gain national recognition and a qualification that can open many doors in your future.

What are your career goals?

Just now I'm focusing on my career as a dental nurse. But, in the near future, I will consider taking additional courses in dental nursing.