As a dental professional, you are encouraged to broaden boundaries and add to you skillset in order to excel in your career.

From CPD papers to attending conferences, staff training to further study to move into other clinical and managerial areas of dentistry, there are endless ways to develop you role. But now, thanks to this digital age in which we live, this can also mean discovering skills in more unconventional areas not directly akin to the delivery of dentistry.

From Instagram to Facebook, Twitter to practice websites, there are now countless opportunities to share good practice, knowledge and experiences via the written word. Indeed, as editor of this journal I am always keen to encourage dental nurses to commit their thoughts to paper on topics about which they are passionate.

Blogging works well as both a creative outlet and a way of sharing and exchanging knowledge. Not only is it a fantastic way to wind down after a long day in practice, it can also connect you with like-minded professionals across the world.

Blogging can also be a way of reaching out to your dental community and is a great way to meet like-minded people in the profession.
1. Blog with passion about topics you love. What aspect of the industry do you find the most interesting? There is a wealth of options within dentistry – it may be as simple as a reflective piece, advice for colleagues or a new skill you just acquired.
2. Stick to the rules and obey the regulators. The GDC's Standards for the dental team advise: ‘You must not post any information or comments about patients on social networking or blogging sites. If you use professional social media to discuss anonymised cases for the purpose of discussing best practice, you must be careful that the patient or patients cannot be identified.'
3. Get planning and then get writing. It’s always best to type your blog on a Word document first, so you can edit and change as you please. Be sure to make use of Spellcheck and look out for grammatical errors. It might be worth getting a colleague or a family member to proofread your piece before posting it anywhere.

Aimee Thomas has been tutoring with Dental Training Ltd (DTL) since 2018 after nine ‘long joyful, and painful years of dental nursing,’ she jokes.

She explains: ‘Working with DTL allows me share my skills whilst encouraging and motivating others by helping them to achieve further qualifications within the dental industry.’

As a tutor with an online course provider, Aimee is always looking at new ways to involve students. She says: ‘Encouraging our students to blog alongside us keeps them actively involved and promotes their own confidence and skills. It also helps them to reflect on their learning. Reading student blogs is a great way for us to measure motivation and identify areas for improvement.’

Blogging is also a positive way to raise awareness of the importance of adding skills and knowledge to any skillset.

Aimee says: ‘Our students have shared with us their positivity and praise for their blogs and have been able to self-reflect on the topic in question. Blogging is also a really great motivational tool. More duties and skills will ultimately produce more blogs and further self-reflection. The NEBDN ask for a self-reflection of learning before and after the completion of their Record of Competence. If dental nurses can get into blogging, they are actually already reflecting on practice and possibly identifying areas for development.’

Blogging is always relevant to someone – and, for your potential audience, it is a great way to learn and better understand any new skill or topic.

Two blogs to inspire you…

How my confidence has grown in practice and the benefits of a supportive dentist

Emily Birkin reflects on her journey from apprentice to head dental nurse

Head dental nurse? Yes it sounds so surreal to me, too! I started off as a young 18-year-old apprentice not knowing what career path to take after my A-levels. I remember browsing the internet looking for careers and what path to take as I approached the end of my final year of A-levels. I applied for a social worker course at university and, unfortunately, the university I wanted didn’t accept my application, so I was left feeling uninspired and disheartened.

It dawned on me quite quickly that I would be finishing my final year and had no idea of a career, so once again I took myself to the internet and began to apply for apprentice dental nursing as I assumed this was somewhat a similar profession. Much to my disbelief, I landed myself a job as an apprentice. I was very apprehensive but began my career in October 2013.

As I became more comfortable with my surroundings, employers and work colleagues, I felt myself starting to progress and become very confident with my job role. I remember studying every evening and between my patients during clinic as I was determined to complete my dental nursing qualification within one year. The programme was intended to be over a two-year time frame.

However, I was so motivated to gain my formal qualification that, in 11 months, I finally became a qualified dental nurse and applied for my registration with the GDC. I was really well supported by the dentist, who would take time to explain procedures and guidelines and stay behind to help me complete my coursework. I feel a combination of a nurturing environment and my graft led to an early successful completion.

After months of studying and my life being taken over by dental revision, I suddenly felt lost, as I had nothing to sink my teeth into. I was working with the principal dentist who had recently started placing dental implants for our patients. I grew more interested in the surgical aspect of practice and felt I understood the processes and I remember thinking to myself that ‘this is something I could see myself progressing into’. I booked myself onto a day course with Implantium– the Introduction to implant dental nursing – in which it was safe to say I learnt a hell of a lot in one day. But I didn’t feel this was enough and I wanted to really push myself further into the surgical field to gain a deeper level of understanding and expertise.

I was able to push myself as I was in a safe environment and had such a supportive dentist to work with and he was my boss. Most people feel on edge working around their boss but we are a dynamic and equal partnership and we bring out the best in each other.

I started off as this young naive teenager who had no idea of charting, record keeping, etc, to being part of full mouth reconstruction cases, which is amazing! That feeling of knowing you have changed someone’s confidence is heart warming.

Over my five years at the practice, I have gained so much confidence and I’ve really come out my shell. I have learned that communicating more honestly is my strength and feel this has helped me become more of a confident young woman and has allowed me to push myself further. Without the bond I have with my team members, I don’t feel I would have pushed myself to grow as they have always told me: ‘Em, you have the potential. Use it!’ and this inspired me to know other people think I’m good enough. The support from my dentist has been paramount and his encouragement has helped me grow in my career and also as a person. His guidance has been crucial in my development. Without this, I do not feel I would have enrolled on the NEDBN implant dental nursing course. Although I am a confident young woman, this course requires a high standard of knowledge and being guided has helped me complete this.

I am one of the youngest members of our team but I was awarded the job role of head dental nurse last year. I will now encourage the team to better themselves in the way I feel I have enhanced my own career and to do things they wouldn’t have usually picked to help them develop as a person.

I honestly feel working relationships are crucial in life as, let’s face it, we spend more time at work than we do at home and these people become friends not just work colleagues.

Supplementary Outcome: Reflective Practice

Hannah Nicholls is an implant nurse

Newbie alert! So, I started the NEBDN implant nursing course just over a month ago and boy I was so eager to get my teeth stuck right in (deliberate cheesy pun intended). However, I quickly became slightly daunted when the record of competence (RoC) landed in my inbox. I have lost count how many times I have flicked through it and feel sorry for how many questions I had sent my tutor in the first 24 hours – thank goodness she is patient. So, let’s talk about the SO2 reflective practice. First of all I was shocked when I got good feedback from my tutor. I squealed with disbelief. I am not normally the type of person who like to talk about myself, let alone admit when I find things challenging. So when I saw the SO2, I could feel that butterfly feeling in my stomach starting and I knew this was going to be a challenge.

So, how did I tackle this I hear you ask? The answer is surprisingly simple. First, I gave a brief history of my nursing experience, then I just answered the questions in order they appeared, and I was completely honest. So, here goes…

What was I looking forward to? Gaining more knowledge about the history of implants and gaining confidence in my ability. Then I mention a few specific areas I can grow in confidence.

What was I expecting to find challenging? Everything! Mainly developing the ability to provide more efficient pre/post-operative instruction and having the confidence to deliver them to patients. Am I the only one who gets on edge when the dentist is stood directly behind you listening to every syllable you say?

What was I worried about? Where do I begin? Number 1: I am worried about completing the whole RoC. Number 2: 100% worried about completing the entire course. Number 3: Don’t even start me on the case studies. Breathe – one step at a time.

It’s okay to admit what your worries are. It’s okay if you struggle here or there, we are human and it’s 100% okay to ask for help. Don’t feel you’re alone in this. Our tutors are fantastic and are there for us. I don’t know where I would be without the support. Together, we can nail this.