Orthodontic therapist Sophie Noske from Ewell Orthodontics in Surrey describes her momentous and emotional journey to qualification

I started my career in general dental practice in 1996, and went on to pass my National Certificate in dental nursing in May 1999 after completing a course run by Michelle Brindley, the former president of the BADN.

Since then I have completed and qualified from courses in dental radiography and my National Certificate in oral health education. I graduated with a diploma in dental nursing in May 2008 and in November 2008 as an orthodontic therapist.

My dream come true

In July 2006 I completed the certificate in orthodontic nursing and that is when I heard about orthodontic therapy. I was quite interested and did some research online to find out more. I heard about the Yorkshire Orthodontic Therapy Course and with the help from my trainer James Stubbs of Ewell/Weybridge Orthodontics, found an application to apply. The day I found out I had been shortlisted was the start of this wonderful emotional journey I now share with you.

Wow – this was really happening. I was on my way to the core course for the Yorkshire orthodontic therapy course. Ten proud but nervous people from all walks of life as far apart as Scotland and Surrey all travelled to Leeds.

The core course is four weeks of  intensive training to introduce us into our new roles in practice. Our course directors Simon Littlewood and Trevor Hodge were very positive and have been all the way. I will never forget the strength they have given us. We learned things such as bonding, banding, taking impressions, photographs, cephelometrics and GDC roles and principles. It was a packed four weeks and with most of us staying away from home, it was great to have such a close-knit, strong group. I can definitely say that the experiences we shared will make us friends forever.

In these four weeks we practiced on each other and also saw our first live patient. Before this, we spent a considerable amount of time developing our skills in state-of-the-art clinical skills laboratories. It was great having the experience before going back to practice.

Learning curve

‘We were all a bit nervous. All 10 of us completed the national certificate in orthodontic nursing and found this was an essential base for this course.

After the core course we all then went back to practice. It was a bit daunting but excitement had set in. Everyone has a trainer who oversees every patient before, after and even during if needed. A logbook is kept for every appointment with details of the procedure, a space for comments and signature. There is no set amount of patients you have to see, but you do have to complete seven to eight sessions a week. There are also assessment forms you have to carry out for different procedures like band placement, bonding etc and comments for strengths, weaknesses and action to be taken for improvement. All these are very helpful and also motivating as you can monitor your progress and see improvements you have made.

During the rest of the year we went to Leeds Dental Institute for 12 study days. Here, we covered topics such as bonded retainers. We also had mock exams throughout which we all agreed helped us immensely. Most of us ended up with a study buddy of whom we met up with or talked in length with and phone tested with. It was also a release as no one really understood what we were going through and some days it was very challenging. But ‘with a little help from your friends’ you can get through it.

As the study days had come to an end, the exams loomed closer and we all got a bit nervous. The day we had to hand our logbooks in was here. We had to copy everything in case it got lost! The thought was very daunting (special delivery here we come!).

It was a relief that we didn’t have to think about our logbooks and assessment anymore, however we still had to keep a log sheet up until the day we qualified. I was involved with over 1,000 patients during my year-long training. At first I only had a few a day. The long appointments gave me plenty of time to carry out the procedure and allowed time for waiting before and after. I kept a log of the times I was taking so I could see the improvements.

Exam day

The day before the exam all the girls met in London as we were all staying close to the Royal College of Surgeons of England, we definitely didn’t want to be late. We had a nice meal and departed around 8pm to have an early night. I had left all my notes at home as I just wanted to relax and not think about anything till the morning.

Wrong – tonight was no different. We were sleeping and dreaming orthodontics. This had been the case for one year and soon it would be over. It was all pale faces, not being able to sit still and worried looks as we waited for the taxis. Once at the Royal College we checked in and were shown to the exam room for the written paper. All I can say is those two hours went so quickly. None of us knew how it went. As always, everyone was comparing answers and we all felt sick to the stomach. After lunch we had the two 20-minute sessions. Mel and myself were due in last and I can say it was the longest wait of our lives. We resorted to walking around the room I don’t know how many times. Finally, our time had come – those 20 minutes went so fast and after a brief break all we could do was stare at each other. Then it was over. The waiting had begun, a celebratory drink was well needed and we all had a little cry.

The moment of truth

The results came just inside two weeks. I was just leaving work when I got a text message. ‘Mel – check your email girls!’. I had a look and there it was in black and white – 10 big passes. We had all done it! We all met and celebrated at this year’s British Orthodontic Conference. I want to thank all the girls, Simon Littlewood and Trevor Hodge and my trainers James Stubbs and Faiza Darugar. And also to everyone who has helped me on my amazing journey.

This was just the beginning. The new Leeds course started and 12 new journeys began. I was invited to help in the clinical skills lab with them and it was such a pleasure to listen and give feedback. The girls all shared their top tips. This is what we missed but what we could now share.

The future is so bright. Look over the horizon and if you put your mind to it, anything is possible. I am so proud of our achievements.