A decade in dentistry
This month’s Crowning Career article is from Natalie Watson, Education and Quality Assurance Officer, General Dental Council (GDC).
Back in 2007, at the age of 16, I began my career in dentistry, prior to the GDC’s introduction of dental nurse registration. At the time, I hadn’t ever considered a career in dentistry and thought of it as a temporary role until I discovered what it was that I wanted to do. I Initially worked as a trainee dental nurse in a busy NHS practice, supporting a hygiene therapist who taught me the skills I needed to successfully carry out my duties. Once I gained more experience in the role, I started to consider the vast career opportunities that were available within dentistry.
In 2008, I learnt of a dental nursing training programme at Birmingham Dental Hospital and decided that it was an opportunity that I wanted to pursue. This so happened to be the same year that the GDC introduced mandatory registration for dental nurses. Shortly after enrolling in the application process, I was thrilled to be offered a place at Birmingham Dental Hospital. The two years that I spent there gave me access to a wide range of dentistry experience and highlighted the career opportunities that would become available once I had achieved my qualification. The training that I received, as well as the support from tutors and dental professionals, inspired me to explore a career in dental education.
Once I qualified as a dental nurse, I worked in a mixed NHS and private dental practice for four years and put my skills into practise. Alongside a full-time job, I completed a part-time course in my spare time, gaining a teaching qualification. I also undertook post-qualification courses such as radiography, sedation and impression taking, which enabled me to gain further skills in preparation for a job in education.
Although I was suitably qualified, I faced difficulties getting into education as employers often viewed me as being too young and inexperienced. However, I was determined to succeed. In 2014, at the age of 23, I secured employment with a dental training provider as a dental nurse tutor and assessor. Over the next four years, I was responsible for teaching the Level 3 Diploma in Dental Nursing as well as the Level 4 Dental Practice Management qualification. My role also involved assessing students within their own workplace to ensure they were meeting the required standards expected of them. This role enabled me to gain qualifications in assessing, internal quality assurance and management.
In 2018, the GDC opened its Operational Hub in Birmingham and vacancies were advertised, including the education and quality assurance role. I knew that this would be the perfect opportunity to use all of the skills that I had acquired during a decade working in the industry. As a GDC registrant, I thought of this as an exciting opportunity and was keen to enhance my skills further in the quality assurance of dental education. I am now ten months into my role and thoroughly enjoy the variety that it brings. It has also been of great interest to me getting to know more about the GDC and I feel proud to work here.
As a large focus of the dental profession is lifelong learning, I am eager to gain more skills and further develop in my current role. Dentistry is an exciting career and there are various opportunities available if you put your mind to it and set yourself achievable goals. Upon reflection, it is rewarding to know that the aspirations I set for myself when I was younger have been achieved and I look forward to a long career in dentistry.