An anonymous letter from a reader to a previous manager. Here, a dental nurse reveals how unsupported she felt from her first day at a previous practice – and how she vows to help any trainee who comes her way

I remember being fresh into dentistry, with no experience whatsoever. You knew this because you saw my CV and asked me at the interview why I wanted to change career. You promised me that when I started at the practice, I would have an experienced dental nurse to shadow and have support where I needed it. That is why I am so upset that when on my first day of work and feeling excited and ready to begin learning, you threw me into the deep end.

There was no dental nurse to shadow, as you were understaffed, so I was put chair-side with what was to me scary and complicated treatments. You also had me nursing for a dentist who had no patience whatsoever. When I asked for help from the other dental nurses – who just a week before had been so friendly and assuring – they told me they were too busy and to 'work it out for myself'.

I am sorry I had no idea what a bitewing X-ray was – maybe the dentist could have just said ‘the yellow one’. I am sorry that I had never mixed alginate before. She got so impatient at my two incorrect mixes she snatched the bowl and spatula from me. I am sorry that the dental software was so foreign to me. I am sorry that I had no idea what dental surfaces were, and wrongly charted an amalgam-filled tooth. It took less than a second for the dentist to fix that, but it was my fault the day then ran behind because of this.

I remember coming to you and telling you exactly how hard I was finding it all, and your response was simply ‘everyone has to start somewhere’. I’ve always made my feelings clear in any situation, and work is never any different. I told you how uncomfortable the other dentist made me feel. I discovered all the other dental nurses felt the same, so I had essentially pulled the short straw. You simply told me: ‘Just put up with her. I’m hoping she leaves soon.’

The weeks went on and my confidence and knowledge into this new and scary world grew until my first root canal treatment. I felt defeated and was starting to question my ability as a dental nurse at this point. Once again, we had the conversation and this time you listened and moved me to work with the hygienist.


I am sorry that on paper I must have seemed like someone who may come into surgery and take to the role like a duck to water – but dental nursing is not something you learn overnight. I look back now as the almost qualified nurse I am and can reflect (and even laugh) at some of these moments. As much as I am sorry that I was once ‘useless’ as that dentist embarrassingly called me in front of a patient, I am also thankful because now I am becoming a dental nurse who wants to know – and will know – exactly what she is doing. I have the strength to move on and find a dentist to work with who empowers me. Together, we will provide the best treatments our patients deserve – and when a new trainee joins us and needs that help, I will be there every step of the way.


I am now at a practice where I have blossomed and found confidence within myself. I am also supported by the rest of the team at all levels who tell me there are no stupid questions. They have helped me by explaining treatments, showing me tricks to remember instruments and talking me through different materials. You were just a stepping stone in my dental nursing journey, I look back and I am eternally grateful that you were the person who looked at me and saw the potential to be a dental nurse and gave me that opportunity. Maybe on a work relationship basis, we were not meant to be. I hope you realise how unhappy your team are and improvements have been made. Everyone in dentistry shares the same vision: to provide patients with the best care possible. You can fix teeth to the best standard in the world, but vibes don’t lie, and people pick up on them.

I wish you nothing but the best for the future, but I am so glad I don’t work for you anymore!

To write for this series, email Julie Bissett at with your 750-word ‘letter’.