Life as a key worker through COVID-19
This month’s Crowning Careers spotlight is on Dorota Mela, who shares her experience as a Dental Nurse working through Coronavirus (COVID-19).
Dental nursing wasn’t something that I planned to do, it just happened in my life. 20 years ago, when I was young, and not sure what I wanted to do, my friend gave me a leaflet about a dental nursing course run by a local medical school. It seemed like a good idea at the time and my plan was to do it till I figure out what I wanted to do with my life. 20 years later I’m still working in dental nursing, not because I’m still unsure on what I want to do, but because I love it.
I completed my qualification in Poland in 2000, where I spent some time working in private surgeries. In 2009 I moved to the UK, where I built my experience working in NHS and private practices. Currently I work for the Primary Care Dental Service in the University Hospitals Bristol Trust, as a Float Dental Nurse, Band 4. Recently, after successfully passing my Oral Health Education NEBDN exam, I’ve been offered a place in the Oral Health Promotion team in Bristol. During the weekends I usually help the out of hours team as a dental nurse, but now due to COVID-19 this role is on hold to help me focus on my main job.
In Primary Care Dental Service, I usually work between seven different clinics located around Bristol, where the leading group of patients are primarily older patients that are medically compromised, or patients that have additional needs and who struggle with access to General Dental Practitioner (GDP) practices. As a dental team we don’t see as many patients as standard GDP practices, but treatments are usually more severe, so we need to be focussed and present. We are expected to be flexible, resourceful, and dedicated, which has helped me in adjusting to my new situation working during COVID-19.
Working in the COVID-19 pandemic has been challenging and was scary at the beginning. The community service where I work has been transformed into Urgent Dental Care (UDC) hubs. No one I know has gone through anything like this, it’s a new situation. With all the news articles around COVID-19 highlighting the potential risks of infections, this has built up fear and created lots of questions from patients.
Each day we face a lot of new challenges, but with guidance and advice from the dental hospital, we manage to create a safe working environment. There is a limit to how many patients we can see daily to deliver safe treatment, so spaces are allocated very carefully to people who really need urgent dental help, which is a big challenge and responsibility for triaging dentist, as we all know what we would consider to be urgent treatment doesn’t always meet patients perception of immediate need. We work in small groups which includes a treatment coordinator, dentist and two nurses. As a team we have increased our focus on communication. This part has become more critical now than ever, to ensure additional requirements whilst working around COVID-19 are met safely and follow the latest guidance. Before taking patients to surgery, we all have a small briefing to cover any government/practice updates. Hence, everyone knows exactly what treatment they can expect and what kind of equipment is going to be needed. The whole patient journey through to treatment is planned well in advance, to be as prepared as possible.
For me personally, all of this was a very scary experience to start with, we all felt the same, and even now there is an element of stress, but every single patient seen in the hub is giving me more confidence and assurance in the service we are providing during this difficult time.
There is no less or more important job to do, we all must rely on each other’s professional judgment. It’s phenomenal how this has created a special bond within the team. It’s given a new level of trust and solidarity to each member. For me, the most essential aspect of my job now is efficient communication. Every day I learn something new, so I try to pass my experience to others, and they do the same. The morale is much stronger than usual and the fact that that every single patient who I see in the UDC hub really appreciates my work, helps a lot. People have been sending cards and other small gestures alike to show their gratitude. It shows me that we are still as needed here as we were before the pandemic and will be after it all is over. Finally, I believe that we will fight COVID-19, and I’m proud to be part of the history. It is a truly rewarding experience and I hope to bring some positivity to dental nurses redeployed or thinking of volunteering their time.
The below links include volunteer, paid and redeployment job roles.