My DCHS Blog

A chat with Teresa Stewart, Dental Nurse

Starting her NHS career as a dental nurse in 1980, Teresa Stewart has worked all over the county and even in Canada during her time at DCHS. Just before her retirement this week, we caught up with her to learn about her experience working for the Trust and her plans for the future.

Tell us about the beginning of your career.  

I started in 1980 as an unqualified dental trainee coming from administration and secretarial work at Alfreton health centre, and then moved on Mill Hill. While working I studied at college and gained my qualifications to become a qualified dental nurse.

What made you go into dental nursing?

One day I found myself sitting in the dental reception, listening to the bustling activity around me. I realised that this was what I wanted as a career and luckily because I already worked in a health centre I could spot the right opportunity when it came along.

Watching dental nurses interacting with patients inspired me as I was lucky enough to see their work up close. It was fast paced and frenetic, in a good way!

Whereabouts have you worked in Derbyshire and what kind of dental work have you practiced?

I have worked in pretty much every part of Derbyshire, from Buxton up north to Swadlincote down south, in portacabins to health centres and caravans to hospitals.

The dental teams have to be very flexible, as we are sent out to individual sites where we are needed.

No two days are ever the same – I’ve even been known to cover two sites in one morning!

How has the community dental service changed over the years?

In the past we were more likely to have regular patients like most general practices and school screening and domicillary visits were commonplace.  These days, the service now comprises of dental clinics mainly based in health centres or hospitals which children and adults can be referred into for assessment and treatment, general anaesthetic sessions at Royal Derby Hospital for paediatric, adult special needs, sedation services and oral health promotion.

In addition we now have a clinic for daytime emergency access appointments, which also operates an out of hours emergency service in the evenings and weekends.

Calls from unregistered patients with trauma injuries, abscesses, pain and any other kind of dental emergency can access appointments. Patients can also be directed through the 111 Service.

Over all, the department runs quite similar to A&E or MIU in that we have different patients attending each day and are assessed according to their needs and how severe the symptoms are. Patients are triaged and allocated appointment slots, according to their level of pain and symptoms.

What has been the best part of working for the NHS?

There are two things that immediately jump to mind for me.

I was lucky enough to be allowed to go to Canada on an exchange for three months in 1987 as I wanted to see how their dental practices manage their services. My counterpart didn’t end up changing places due to maternity leave in their team, but DCHS still allowed me to go.

It was an amazing experience and I learnt so much about their methods and practices. Like the US they have more private work than social care, and their dentists tend to specialise in individual areas. UK dentists often provide general dental care across the patch.

I also took part in the official 50th anniversary NHS concert at Theatre Royal in Drury Lane in 1998. Several people from different areas at DCHS were there. You might be able to find it online if you look as I’m sure a video was made, but it took place before the age of digital and social media!

Do you have any amusing tales from your time at DCHS?

Well I have a couple of stories that both happen to feature locked doors…….

I once spent an entire lunchtime locked in the garage at Mill Hill Clinic because the door shut behind me and could not unlock from inside. No one had a clue where I was and it wasn’t until another nurse came to fetch another oxygen cylinder that I was released! I have never been allowed to forget it!

Another time…. I was going round the building at the end of a surgery day locking and securing all the doors before vacating the premises, and as I was locking the main entrance I thought I could hear shouting from inside.

It turned out that I had only locked a dentist, a nurse and a patient in their surgery for the night! Fortunately I had heard their cries and they were subsequently released much to their relief!

Both stories makes me glad that we have mobile phones these days, so you have a chance to call for help if someone locks you in!

What are your plans for the future?

I will be doing some travelling and writing, I have joined a writers group and I will be signing up for The Writers Summer school this August in Swanwick, Derbyshire, fortunately quite local for me this occasion, so I’m really looking forward to that.

May I take this opportunity to thank all my colleagues past and present for this amazing journey we’ve shared over the years together. I wish everyone the very best for the future, the dental teams have done and still are doing a fantastic job for our patients out there. Well done all!

We thank Teresa for all her hard work at DCHS and wish her the best of luck for a long and happy retirement!