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Cavity Dental Staff Blog

The life of an agency dental nurse

22nd Sep 2023

Ever wondered what the working life of an agency dental nurse looks like? Look no further…

A Rota Update email appears on my phone on Friday afternoon, telling me where I'm going next week. It's always exciting to see what next week brings, no matter how many emails I receive over the years! What places will I be going to? Are there any new practices to Cavity or even a new practice to me? Or am I going back to work with people that I’ve worked with before? Regardless, I always look forward to meeting new people or catching up with old colleagues.

On a Sunday afternoon, I do some prep work for the next day. I will double check my rota hasn't been updated. Then I will double check the journey so I know when to leave. I start to prepare my uniform and my lunch for the next day to save me time in the morning. If I’m not familiar with the practice, I always prefer to take lunch with me. Then I can definitely have something to eat during my break rather than trying to find a shop.

If I’m going to a new place, I like to research the practice. I find this helps me. For starters, I know what the practice looks like from the outside and I may recognise the team if they have a ‘Meet the Team’ page on their website. I can find out if they have any specialists on site or whether they use any new/different equipment that I am interested in learning about.

Every day is different, and I get to experience so much variety every day. My week can bring anything from private practice, hospital, working with dentists, specialists, hygienists to therapists to taking on full days of decontamination. I like this and it keeps me alert.

The majority of my days are spent working with different clinician types, mainly dentists but there is always something new about it. About the way they communicate, their rhythm of work, to which you quickly learn to adapt to. Depending on their area of expertise, the treatments that I assist on are quite different and have different durations. I learn something new and pick up new clinical skills daily whilst locuming. Some days I may touch mainly PMPR equipment when I work with hygienists for example, whilst other days I will use mostly apex locators or 3D scanners. You name it, I turn up to a place and I help however they need me to. Not only am I working with different people every day, but also the environment is different.

Recently I helped out on a mobile dental unit providing treatment to communities without access to dentists. These work placements give me opportunity to learn about the difficulties of people in my neighbourhood and expand my clinical skills in a different environment. Although not everything is new and unpredictable and a considerable amount of repetitiveness exists in my day; like the 9-5 schedule, and my responsibilities as a dental nurse, I find that I am doing or seeing something different every day. This keeps me motivated to learn and progress my skills all the time.

Every practice I visit is different in so many ways; room size, organisation of cupboards, dental chairs etc. and I need to adapt myself to the practice quickly in order to carry out my duties. One of the biggest differences is of course the team, some dentists will give more responsibility to nurses, whereas others will be more independent, so you need to learn to adapt to that quickly, I try to mould myself around them. I have the chance to work with lots of different professionals, including experienced clinicians, junior dentists’ hygienists or therapists or orthodontics therapists and I have to tailor my dental treatment equipment and skills to their needs. This constant adjustment of skills helps me constantly review my knowledge and learn so much at the same time.

Meeting new people is my favourite part of the job! As an agency dental nurse, you will meet a substantial number of people. Over the last 12 months, I have easily worked with 100 different clinicians! Everywhere I go, the dental team are curious about my background and how I came to work as an agency nurse, so that always makes a nice intro to the day.I got to learn about some interesting sports, hobbies, and many meaningful causes that other colleagues get involved in. I usually meet the other members of the team during lunch breaks. These are further opportunities to network with other dental professionals, share recent experiences or simply check in with one another. Some days are easier than others. Whilst there isn’t always laughter in the staff room there is always something to learn.

I remember starting work as an agency nurse having only had experience in general dentistry. In a matter of months, I was confidently assisting in orthodontic procedures or various surgical procedures. Working with new people, whether in communication, dentistry, clinical tips, or improving efficiency  It’s amazing! Key tip, keep a small notepad to jot down all the precious information.

Life as a agency nurse has given me many opportunities including visiting new places, amazing drives and walks that I wouldn’t have otherwise experienced. Travelling to a lot of new places has always been something that I have enjoyed. A way to disconnect from work on the way home or a mean bit of cardio in the morning. Several of these towns I have explored with family and friends.

If you are thinking of becoming an agency dental nurse I couldn’t recommend it more.