Apprentice to Head Dental Nurse – My Journey

Apprentice to Head Dental Nurse? Yes it sounds so surreal to me too!  Here is my story by Emily Grace Birkin.


 How it started?

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.  When I applied for a social work course at university,  my application was unfortunately declined.  I was left feeling uninspired and disheartened at this point. It dawned on me quite quickly, that I would be finishing my final year with no idea of a career. So once again, I took myself to the internet.  This time I 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.



Over time, 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. Studying every evening and between my patients during clinic became the norm.  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. I then quickly applied for my registration with the GDC. I was really well supported by the dentist.  He would take time to explain procedures and guidelines,  and even stayed 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 principle dentist who had recently started placing dental implants for our patients. My interest in the surgical aspect of practice grew more and more. I felt I understood the processes and I remember thinking to myself  that  “this is something I could see myself progressing into”.  So I booked myself onto a day course with Implantium “Introduction to implant dental nursing”.  I can safely safe 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 and gain a deeper level of understanding and expertise.

I was able to push myself, as I was in a safe environment.  I 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.


Growth in Confidence

Over my 5 years at the practice, I have gained so much confidence and I’ve really came out my shell. I have learned that communicating more honestly is my strength.  I feel this has helped me become more of a confident young woman and allowed me to push myself further. Without the bond myself and my team members have, I don’t feel I would have pushed myself to grow.

They have always told me “Em you have the potential, use it!” and this inspired me knowing other people think I’m good enough. The support from my dentist has been paramount.  I think, due to his encouragement, it has helped me grow in my career and also a person as 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.

As 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.  Let’s face it, we spend more time at work than we do at home, and these people become friends not just work colleagues.

For more information on dental nursing courses, please contact us on 0118 9261533

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