We catch up with the BSDHT’s new president
Who has inspired you most in your career?
A friend of mine, Jennifer Cowlam, is a dental therapist at the Charles Clifford Dental Hospital in Sheffield, where I worked as a dental nurse. She taught me everything I could ever need to know about treating children and gaining their trust and respect in the dental chair.
She also introduced me to BSDHT by taking me along to regional group meetings, which just strengthened my ambition to become a dental hygienist.
Professionally, if you weren’t doing this, what would you be doing?
I started my working life as a hairdresser and passed my City & Guilds, but soon realised that I didn’t have the artistic flair to be a good hairdresser.
If I hadn’t been able to get into dental hygiene I don’t think I’d have stayed as a dental nurse – I think I’d probably have changed direction and become a midwife, which I always quite fancied.
Where and when do you feel you have been the most successful in your career to date?
My current role as a clinical dental hygienist is what I love doing the most, even after 16 years with one of my practices. That aside, I thoroughly enjoyed the teaching post I did last year as maternity cover.
The regional group coordinator role for BSDHT has also been thoroughly enjoyable, and I’ve been able to get to know the regional teams and trade sponsors really well.
Would you encourage people into a career in dentistry?
Absolutely! Looking back it’s true to say that I fell into dentistry more by chance than any grand plan on my part – I went for a job as a dental receptionist, but the head nurse was off sick on my first day so I was thrown in at the deep end, and before I knew what was happening I was in the surgery with an aspirator, mixing pad and spatula.
I’ve never looked back and I’d encourage anyone with an interest in dentistry to go for it!
How important is the BSDHT to furthering the career of DH&Ts?
As a Society run by DCPs for DCPs, everyone is committed to the cause and we’ve been very fortunate that recent presidents have been very proactive and successfully created momentum in key initiatives such as Direct Access and PGD legislation.
We now have very good relationships with dentistry schools and colleges and through this can help to shape the profession of dental hygiene and therapy from grass roots upwards.
We also have representation with all of the major bodies involved with the profession including the GDC, Department of Health, the All Party Parliamentary Group for Dentistry (APPG), and the International Federation of Dental Hygiene (IFDH), and BSDHT is consulted by for its views on key issues affecting the profession.
How important is direct access to improving the health of the UK’s dental patients and to improving the work life of DH&Ts?
For me it’s all about giving the patients a choice of how their oral healthcare is delivered.
We’re not asking for anything more than most other healthcare professionals already have, which is the freedom to be able to carry out the treatment and advice that we’re trained to provide for our patients.
‘I’m delighted and honoured to be taking over as BSDHT president and hope to carry on the fabulous work of Sally Simpson who has really taken the organisation forward during her two years in office. I can’t wait to get started and look forward to continuing to work with a terrific group of people!’
You don’t need a written referral to see a chiropractor, physiotherapist and so on, so why for a dental hygienist/therapist?
In the UK, we are already permitted to practise ‘the business’ of dentistry, but the need for a referral from a dentist means that it limits the patient’s choice of access to our oral care.
We’re trained to do it; we’re qualified to do it; and we have the skills and expertise to do it. We just want to be able to work as part of the collaborative dental team in order to provide the duties that fall within our Scope of Practice.
How best to move forward in educating the patients?
Education is always the answer to anything connected to improvements in health. The way I deal with my patients is to talk with them to find out what it is that makes them tick… it could be that they’re worried about bad breath, or embarrassed about bleeding gums. So I start with the problem, and explain how it might have occurred so that at the end of each visit, they’re a little better informed and educated through oral hygiene instruction, of how to take control of their own oral healthcare.
For me, education linked to their own personal responsibility for their oral health is the key.
Do you still work in practice? If so, where and how often?
Yes, I still work in the practice where I’ve been for the past 16 years, and have reduced my hours so that I have time to concentrate on being president and continue with my regional group coordinator post.
What word, phrase, metaphor or saying best describes you?
A friend of mine says I’m like a Galaxy Minstrel: tough on the outside but soft in the middle!
I think I know what he means because I can on occasions be pretty ‘straight to the point’. But I hope people can also see that I’m honest, loyal and hardworking, and that I have a passion for BSDHT and my profession.
What frustrates – and what elates – you about the profession?
I think my frustration would be that people can be very quick to criticise without realising just how much work goes on behind the scenes in an organisation like BSDHT – the amount of time and energy given freely by BSDHT executive and council members is phenomenal! And when you’re representing your profession by putting forward a proposal or responding to a paper, that’s a responsibility not to be taken lightly and you need to be ever mindful that you are representing the whole profession, and not just expressing your own opinions.
As for what elates me – it’s that dental hygienists and therapists are so passionate about their profession. Every sponsor or speaker I meet acknowledges that it’s always a pleasure to speak with our members as they are always so engaging and committed about what they do.
What are the three things you wish you’d known when you began your career?
I wouldn’t change anything in my dental career; I’ve enjoyed every single step of the journey. But I guess if I was looking back and giving advice to a younger just-qualified me, I’d probably say:
1. Dentistry is a bit like learning to drive a car – you may have passed your exams but you don’t really know the job until you start doing it out there on your own.
2. Don’t compromise the excellent standards you’ve been taught in dental school – be true to yourself and maintain your integrity throughout your career.3. Everything is possible when we work together, and being part of your professional organisation is the first step to achieving this.
What are the three major changes in the profession since qualifying?
1. Dentistry has become more of a business than a service.
2. The role has been broadened to encompass ID blocks, temporary fillings, impressions, and
3. The majority of those now qualifying do so with a dual qualification in dental hygiene and therapy.
What do you do to relax?
I love cooking for friends and family – there were two stipulations when I had a new kitchen fitted at home; a dishwasher, and an island unit. Both help by giving me more time to chat to friends and family while cooking.
I also love a lie-in on a Sunday morning with breakfast and a good book, although by contrast I’ve recently taken up cycling, which I find is both great exercise as well as being relaxing.
What is your motto in life?
The impossible we can do, but miracles take a bit longer!
What couldn’t you do without?
First and foremost my family – they mean everything to me! Oh and I am a self-confessed shopaholic!
Julie Rosse qualified as a dental hygienist at the Eastman Dental Institute in London in 1995 and worked in community dental health before moving into general practice. She went on to do the extended duties course and went to college to gain a City & Guilds qualification in teaching.
She has been a committed member of BSDHT since her student days, serving for a time as Secretary of the North East Regional Group, and has remained a strong supporter of the organisation to this day. She became the regional group coordinator for the Society in 2008, and was elected president of the BSDHT this month in Liverpool.