In this anonymous open letter from a reader to a previous manager, she reveals how the death of a much-loved family pet forced her to reassess her stressful workplace situation and seek pastures new

I started dental nursing in a practice in 2016. I had just left secondary school and it was my first job. I was so excited but also very nervous about going into the big world of work. Everything was going great at this practice, but then things started to change.

When I turned 18, my hours changed from set to contracted hours, which I was excited about at the time as I was able to earn more money with the additional hours. However, the shifts suddenly became a lot longer. I was doing 12-hour shifts more than once a week. There was also a big turnover of staff, especially dental nurses, but I loved all of my colleagues and I was young. I didn’t know this was a sign for concern. I had always been told ‘the grass isn’t greener’, ‘this is the best place you’ll ever work’ and ‘they’ll be back’.

Eager to learn

I have always been eager to learn and happy to work with new clinicians, so I never said no to any challenge. The work environment became tougher as colleagues around me grew more stressed or were off work sue to the pressures. Although I didn’t see it at the time, I too was struggling with the work environment.

We then got an NHS orthodontic contract for my local area. I was so excited about the new opportunities. My wage was never a problem but I started to realise I was doing a lot more, and it was expected rather than asked – even though my pay never reflected the extra duties. Throughout orthodontic nursing, future opportunities arose so I didn’t want to make the mistake of leaving before something good came of it all. So I stayed and watched a lot of my amazing colleagues leave because they couldn’t take any more.

Empty promises
But the opportunities never came. I didn’t know how long to wait but I felt like they were empty promises. I spoke to you but you couldn’t give me any answers. I became so focused on doing overtime to help cover sickness and holidays that I became ill myself with stress. I was taking my problems home to my beautiful family and letting my anger out on them. But I was scared– scared to leave and frightened that I would move practices only to find a similar situation.

Then things became a lot worse. I came home one night from work and my family dog had suddenly fell ill and was put to sleep that night. I was heartbroken. So, the next morning I called into work to ask for the day off, as I didn’t feel I would be able to keep it together and didn’t want to look unprofessional. I just needed to grieve with my family instead of facing the 12-hour shift.

You said it was okay but then, half way through the day, you changed your mind. I got five miss calls from you and, when we eventually spoke, you told me that you no longer would authorise the day off. You said that you had helped me already in the morning, so I had to go in for the afternoon shift. I was distraught. I tried to tell you I was in no fit state, but it took my dad to explain what we were going through for you to accept it. The next day, I had to go to the doctors. I knew I was going to work in the afternoon and needed to keep myself together. But my GP believed I should be signed off for stress. I was so scared to tell you the outcome. When I did, I got told that it was the wrong choice. I knew I had to put my health first but you said ‘you just have to worry about money then’. From that day. I knew I had to leave. So I did.

Happier experience
I have found an amazing practice with the most thoughtful, caring people. I have been at my practice for 10 months now (through lockdown, too) and, since then, have gained so much more experience. I have never been happier. I now assist for implants, sedation and am going on a radiography course this month (February 2021). My family have seen the biggest change in my attitude and way of thinking. I have fallen in love with dental nursing again. If I can express this to anyone who thinks they will be making a mistake by leaving an unhappy practice. This is your sign. The grass can be greener, it’s just where you water it.

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