Trainee dental nurse Chloe Thorne talks about working with COVID-19 and looks ahead to suggest your future may involve a lot more responsibility…

1. A dental nurse must be a team player, reliable and have good listening skills. As a dental nurse, you need to be able to work with your colleagues in order to provide quality care, and a satisfactory experience for the patient. Your work colleagues should also be able to rely on you to get jobs done; working in a high-speed industry doesn’t always allow time for your co-workers to constantly check up on you. Essentially, you must have good listening skills to meet the needs and wants of each and every patient, making them feel as comfortable as possible during treatment.

2. Good time management is important. When it comes to disinfecting the clinical area before the next patient, efficiency is key. I think this is one of my strengths. Preparing the surgery between patients ensures appointment times run on schedule.

3. Multitasking is a must. A lot of the time, dental nurses are working under pressure. It’s vital to still be aware of everything that’s going on in the practice, even when your hands are tied with other jobs...

4. My inspiration in the dental industry is cosmetic dentist Alex Al-Shakil. He is the owner of the Leeds-based practice, Maison Dental. To me, Mr Al-Shakil has shown drive, self-motivation, and ambition when working his way up in the dental industry. He has come a long way from where he started – from knowing nothing about business in the dental world to going on to own two practices.

5. My career in dentistry is a rewarding and satisfying job. Not only am I learning more about my role within the practice, I get to learn the role of my more advanced colleagues. Working with the hygienist and dentist has opened my eyes to a compelling and diligent side of dentistry.

6. I face many challenges at work, especially during these times… It has been a difficult time for all dental nurses during this current period (COVID-19). The hardest part is having to adapt to all these changes, such as wearing surgical AGP kits, disinfecting the clinical area and the rest of the practice, making sure everybody has filled out their COVID-19 forms and so on. All these things have to be done now to ensure the safety of us as staff as well as anyone else who enters the practice.

7. Training as a dental nurse has to be one of my most important professional achievements. I’ve always wanted to join the dental industry, so to get this apprenticeship was amazing. I felt like I was finally making steps that would positively impact my future. I’m learning and involving myself in an environment that I’ve always wanted to be a part of.

8. COVID-19 has changed everything! As mentioned, numerous changes have been made during this pandemic, which has affected everybody in the healthcare industry. We have had no choice but to jump on board and adapt. At my practice we have all had the responsibility of making sure the environment is a safe place for anyone entering the practice. We have had to be overly cautious with everything! One obvious change was the PPE, which I have to say has been very hard to work in, particularly in hot temperatures. I wouldn’t say I have got used to it, but I have accepted this is how we would have to be working until further notice. Fallow time is another obvious change, which has completely slowed down the way we work. We have two surgeries in our practice, so after an AGP appointment has been completed in one room, I am able to set up for the next patient in the second room. It has been quite exhausting running between the two rooms to clean up, tidy, and then set up again. But at least this way, the dentist isn’t having to cut down even more on the number of patients he is allowed to see.

9. You have to be able to adapt as a dental nurse. Rules and regulations are always changing in the dental world, even more so now since COVID-19. Acquiring this skill enables you to constantly develop and improve your role as a dental nurse.

10. We make a difference. Even though at times it may feel we are not as important as our clinical colleagues, we make a massive difference in the practice. We take on a lot of responsibility.Not only are we supporting the dentists and hygienists with their everyday jobs, we are running between reception, decontaminating instruments, and completing other jobs around the clinical area. We are also there for our patients. We comfort and support them to make them feel at ease, which has been particularly important with these current changes.

11. I can see the future for dental nurses involving a lot more responsibility. I think we would be expected to step up, offering more support to our colleagues. Unfortunately. I can’t see COVID-19 disappearing anytime soon. We have to work through it! We would have to continue to meet the needs and wants of our patients, and guarantee the safety of everyone around us.

12. There are no shortcuts. I keep a note of things with me now, of the new daily tasks that should be completed so I don’t forget, and the list of things I need to do that day.I tend to add to the list as more little jobs arise as the day goes on. Any of the new infection control protocols I am unsure about, I would ask the dentist or my colleagues for guidance, as there is no room for mistakes when it comes to cleanliness in the clinical environment.

13. Yoga helps! When winding down from work, I try to complete at-home yoga sessions to help relax my mind and body. I use a yoga app from the app store. This type of exercise increases concentration, which is great for me when completing assignments. I tend to listen to music while completing these sessions, and, before I know it, I’m in my own little zone. I’ve also started a new face care routine, as I found wearing the masks seven hours a day for five days a week is giving me spots. Daily cleansing and aloe vera gel has helped a lot.

14. The weekend is when I tend to reflect on my performance of the week. I note down what went well, and what didn’t. I look back on what I can improve on, so I know what to pay attention to when I start the next week back in surgery. I never forget to praise myself, for getting better at the things I struggled with when I first started training, as well as praising myself for how far I’ve come. It is important to do this. I feel it contributes to your self-esteem, which helps you perform better at work.

15. Working as a dental nurse can be stressful. It’s very easy to feel overwhelmed. I have and still do experience this feeling. When there is a lot going on at work, I have learned to always stay calm, and make a list of the jobs I need to complete, in the order of most important to least important. This way, I can quickly tackle the jobs that need my attention first, allowing me to take time with the jobs that aren’t as crucial.

16. When managing patient anxiety before upcoming treatments, we need to be able to reassure them that everything is going to be okay. It’s vital to constantly communicate with the patient and explain the procedure. Patients want to know what is happening to them and should be made to feel as though they can ask you questions if they need to. It is always nice for someone to ask how you’re feeling. You want to feel like someone is there for you when you’re nervous or worried about something. At my practice, we are always checking on the patient, asking them if they are okay and just generally making them feel comfortable.

17. Instagram has become a wonderful tool for my learning. Since making a second Instagram account entirely dedicated to dentistry, I have been able to connect with many people interested in similar careers to me. It’s been lovely talking to people in the same position as me, sharing advice and tips, as well as following the journey of students to places I aspire to be. I’ve definitely expanded my knowledge by watching and learning from numerous dental accounts.

18. Dental nursing is great. What I most love about the job is interacting with the patients. You meet a lot of new people who you would probably never talk to outside of work. The job is also hands-on – you are never really bored as there is always lots to do. I love that about the job. Once I qualify, I know there is nothing stopping me. Being a dental nurse offers a variety of career paths

Six things trainee dental nurses need to know

1. The dental industry is fast paced, with a lot going on most of the time

2. It’s imperative to stay organised – this way you will always stay on top of things.

3. It’s vital to also stay strong. You will experience some low points while dental nursing, even with the multiple highs. The dentist and sometimes even the patients can take their stresses out on you – it’s important to never take it personally. We all have those moments

4. Manage your time carefully as you will be juggling both work and study

5. You should also never be afraid to ask questions. You’re in a new environment, and it’s okay if you’re struggling to adapt to the environment, even after a few months of working there. Your colleagues are there to help, so let them

6. My last tip is to believe in yourself. You can achieve anything you want to in life.