Fighting for their cause

19 October, 2011 / Infocus

The decision to cancel this year’s British Association of Dental Nurses (BADN) conference in Glasgow next month (November) was as difficult as it was necessary.

The current economic climate and lack of funding for dental nurses from their employers saw delegate numbers falling sharply, despite the association’s efforts to find sponsors and persuade speakers at the CPD event to waive their fees.

For one member of the BADN, the decision to cancel the conference was particularly poignant.

Nicola Docherty, senior dental nurse tutor and CPD tutor at NHS Education in Glasgow, was to have been installed as the new president of the association.

“I’m disappointed that the conference can’t go ahead in my home town of Glasgow. It would have meant a lot to me to be installed as President in front of my peers, and I was looking forward to the whole experience. But the razzmatazz is less important than what I can do for our members once I take over as president from Sue (Bruckel).”

She added: “It’s not only the BADN that’s suffering from the spending cuts. A number of events have had to be cancelled recently around the country.

“The feedback we’re getting from our members – and non-members – is that it’s getting too expensive to attend such events – especially when they fall so soon after the General Dental Council’s demand for its annual retention fee.

“Health boards and primary care trusts are not supporting their dental nurses to help them attend events – even when there’s a large amount of Continuing Professional Development attached. Our own BADN conference would have carried almost two full days of CPD and I’m disappointed it’s not going to happen after all the work people have put in.

“If our members – and non-members – can’t get support from their employers then it makes it very difficult for them to attend.”

Nicola’s inauguration will now happen at the BADN annual general meeting that’s been rescheduled to take place at the British Dental Trade Association’s Dental Showcase in Birmingham on 22 October. She said: “I’m very grateful to the BDTA and to Phillips Sonicare for their generous sponsorship of the inauguration and the AGM.

“I’m looking forward to speaking to as many dental nurses as possible at the Showcase.”

Nicola already serves on the National Examining Board for Dental Nurses, which takes her up and down the UK on a regular basis. She also line manages eight teaching staff at NHS Education, who are based in Oban, Dumfries, and Forth Valley as well as Glasgow.

As president, her travel expenses are set to soar still further as she attends meetings at the national headquarters in Lancashire and in London.

“One of the first things I’ll be exploring with my BADN colleagues is our conference strategy, and how we can come up with some solutions for the future. And we’ll be asking our membership for their views on how we go forward.”

Scotland alone has more than 4,000 dental nurses in work, and she wants to see more signing up for membership. Nicola is also determined to raise the membership and the profile of the BADN nationally. “I aim to find out what our existing members really want from us, and hope that we can appeal to other people who are not yet members.”

BADN members enjoy some significant discounts on such things as car insurance and holidays – thanks to some active campaigning by association staff – and indemnity insurance is another huge benefit for its members.

Nicola said: “I aim to make this a professional organisation that people will want to be involved in. They have worked hard for their professional qualifications – and we will be out there fighting for their cause.”

Varied career

Nicola Docherty has been a dental nurse for almost 25 years.

After becoming a qualified science laboratory technician, she found her heart wasn’t in it and entered the dental nursing programme.

“I joined a practice in Charing Cross, Glasgow, and worked my way up to be the senior dental nurse in the practice.”

After a while, Nicola felt the urge to move on and worked in community care and, for a while, sold dental software. But she missed the patient contact, and so once again found herself employed in a dental practice.”

It was while there that she saw an advert for a clinical management post at the Scottish Council for Postgraduate Medical and Dental Education (pre NHS Education Scotland).

It sounded like the ideal job for Nicola, with a strong educational remit, and she accepted when she was offered the post.

“In those days, options for advancement for dental nurses were pretty limited. You could do a post qualification, but that was about it.

“I wanted to help improve the CPD training regime, and the job allowed me to contribute to that.

“There was still some patient contact, because the courses involved dentists and vocational trainees in training.”

Joining BADN

When she left practice, Nicola Docherty knew she needed to find some way to stay involved in dental nursing – and that’s when she joined the BADN.

Before long she became the association’s regional co-ordinator in Scotland. There, she found a number of kindred spirits among the members of the national council – people who, like her, take the vocation seriously and want to improve conditions for their peers.

Nicola admits: “I was nosy. I wanted to learn all I could about my profession. I wanted to know what was going on in areas outside my own patch, and I was lucky enough to be in a position, when the Scottish council transited to NHS Education Scotland, to be involved in the bigger picture.”

She began to attend meetings of groups of dental nurses across Scotland, and to gather information about what they needed and wanted from membership of the association.

Family responsibilities led to Nicola being less active in the BADN. A colleague took over as regional co-ordinator, but three years later Nicola took up the role again.

By that time, Nicola’s work role was also changing, with the responsibility to introduce Scottish Government directives to the dental profession, and before long she was a member of the association’s national council.

It was during this period that the idea was raised that she might want to become the President, succeeding Sue Bruckel in the post. “It’s a two-year tenure, and I’ve always known it will be a huge commitment… but I was delighted to accept.”

Nicola has already spent the past year preparing for her new role. “As president-elect, I have shadowed Sue and she’s been a terrific guide and mentor to me.

“Now I have to do a year on my own before the next president-elect is chosen and I will be expected to help her grow into the role, as Sue did for me.”

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