What to Expect After your Interview
If you are successful in your interview and are ready to begin the journey to become a dental nurse. Firstly you will be required to be vaccinated against Hep B and Tuberculosis. These vaccinations are required since we may come into contact in when working in a dental practice. From there, you are clear to start your work as a trainee dental nurse.
Observing as a Trainee Dental Nurse
To begin with, you will be observing and shadowing one of the dental nurses. Being a dental nurse at Carillon Dental Care comes with a lot of responsibility as you are the heart of your surgery, determining the smooth running of each day for you and the clinician.
Observing the wide variety of treatments we carry out on a daily basis at the practice is the starting point. It allows you to become familiar with the running of the surgery and see how a nurse works alongside a clinician.
This will help you begin to understand the various communication methods that are used to communicate effectively with all patients. Whether this includes calming very anxious patients or going through a treatment plan with a patient.
After you have been vaccinated and spent time observing you will begin the first process of training. This is in-house training with our senior nurse, Holly, who has 10 years’ experience in dental nursing. She will help you attain the knowledge and qualities needed to become a great dental nurse.
Training includes learning how the decontamination process works and how to effectively sterilise instruments. So they are ready to be used for treatments. The decontamination and sterilisation process is one of the most important job roles of being a dental nurse. It is vital that we are extremely particular! This prevents any chance of cross-contamination and putting any patients’ at risk.
As a trainee dental nurse, learning about the extensive variety of instruments used within the practice is paramount and what different treatments they may be used for. Including how to zone these correctly in your surgery to prevent cross-contamination. You will become familiar with different materials that are used throughout the practice and what is needed for all treatments. Then, you will learn how to mix these materials. For example, alginate which is used to take impressions for treatments such as dentures.
Another job role you will learn while being a trainee dental nurse is to record the charting teeth during examinations and note down any treatment that may need to be carried out. Part of this will be making notes onto the patient’s records at each important stage, ensuring they are as thorough as possible. You will be taught how to aspirate. This is a vacuum that is placed in the mouth during treatments to remove water. It allows the patient to be as comfortable as possible during treatments.
Once Holly feels you are ready you will even be able to work on your own with a clinician.
Working on your Own
Working on your own as a trainee dental nurse may seem daunting at first, but there’s no need to worry. All the dental nurses at Carillon Dental Care will never hesitate to help you if you’re struggling. It is very important to communicate with the clinician you are working with and to work as a team because all clinicians may work slightly different.
The day begins by each dental nurse opening up their surgery so it is ready for the first patient, day lists are checked to familiarise ourselves with what treatment is being carried out on that day. I find that writing notes on my day list helps me prepare myself for what instruments or materials I may need to organise for each appointment. We also check to see whether any lab work is needed for any of the treatments, this includes treatments such as dentures or crowns.
Before your first patient, it is important that you have picked out what instruments are needed for the day and organised them efficiently in your surgery. So you know where each instrument is, this will help you especially if the clinician asks for an instrument spontaneously. When you have time in between patients the dental nurses work together to make sure used instruments are decontaminated, sterilised and ready to be used again.
Other jobs include processing x-rays, carrying out routine checks and sometimes even helping on reception.
You will also enrol in a college course, there are a variety of courses available. This way you can choose the course that best suits you. I chose to enrol onto an online course where I speak to tutors on a weekly basis using online meetings.
The course includes topics such as:
- Health & Safety
- Medical Emergencies
- Dental anatomy
- Oral Diseases & Pathology
You will have various assignments to complete for your college course, which is marked and feedback is given. This helps you understand any areas where you may need to revise in greater depth.
You will also have to complete a ‘Record of Experience’ these are case studies that you have to record. Giving feedback on your strengths and weaknesses of certain treatments. These case studies are also observed by your mentor who will also give feedback. Once all your college work is completed you will then be put forward to your exam.
There are 2 exams you have to take to become a dental nurse. The first exam is a written exam which entails 125 questions. These are a mix of multiple choice questions and extending matching questions.
A lot of revision is needed for this exam as you have to be prepared for questions on all aspects of dentistry. Including anatomy, which may include nerves that are found in the mouth. You may also see questions including law & ethics or the dental drugs used for specific medical emergencies. Once this exam has been passed you can then take the second exam.
The second exam is called an OSCE (Objective Structured Clinical Examination) this is a practical examination. This exam can include having to mix materials, act out medical emergencies and record charting.
On successful completion of both exams, you will then become a qualified dental nurse.
Becoming a dental nurse can be a challenging journey and requires a lot of training and learning, but it is definitely a journey that is rewarding and one we are all proud to have taken.