In just a few short years, dental nurse Kirsty Rodger’s enthusiasm and passion have seen her transform from patient to practice manager
Some people are lucky enough to know what they want do in life from an early age – Kirsty Rodger is one. At 15, she became aware that she wanted to work in dentistry. At 21, she’s already crammed a great deal into a short career, and she’s just received the DCP Star trophy at the Scottish Dental Awards.
“When I was younger, my dentist in Banff referred me to an orthodontist in Aberdeen to have braces fitted,” recalled Kirsty. “I remember walking into the surgery and realising that this was the kind of thing I wanted to do. I discussed possibilities with my dentist and he recommended dental nursing, saying I was more than welcome to gain work experience at the practice.”
A few days during the Easter holidays confirmed her thoughts; she loved the atmosphere and teamwork and duly left school – still aged 15 – to seek a job by sending her CV to practices in and around her home near Huntly.
“I was invited to an interview in Inverurie, got the job pretty much on the spot, and have never looked back. I absolutely loved it and was there for three years,” said Kirsty.
Completing her training, Kirsty qualified as a dental nurse at the Aberdeen Dental Education Centre in January 2012. From the start, she has been committed to undertaking additional courses to extend her role.
In April 2012, she qualified as a Childsmile nurse at the University of Highlands and Islands, Inverness. And in November 2013, Kirsty passed the NEBDN Certificate in Oral Health Education at the Aberdeen Dental Education Centre.
By that time, she had moved to her current employer, Deveron Dental Centre in Huntly, which she joined in September 2012. “When the opportunity to work here came, I couldn’t turn it down.
“Previously, I was travelling about 30 miles every day. Deveron is seven miles away from home, plus I’d heard really good things about the practice, and the owner, Morven Gordon-Duff, puts a high priority on continuing professional development, which is very important to me.”
The practice has a 6,500-strong patient list, five dentists and three therapists, and its positive reputation appears well justified – as well as Kirsty’s achievement, Morven was named Employer of the Year at the Scottish Dental Awards.
“Initially, I concentrated on nursing and carrying out Childsmile and general oral health education,” said Kirsty. “However, recently I’ve been asked to act as practice manager and that’s how I spend most of my time. To some extent, I miss being in the surgery, but enjoy helping out behind the scenes.”
According to Morven, Kirsty is one of the most dedicated dental nurses she has worked with. “She is extremely passionate about her job, brilliant at putting nervous people at ease and is wonderful with our child patients.
“Although she is young, she has the maturity and skills to be a key member for training our new dental nurses and vocational trainee dentists. Kirsty is full of great ideas and enthusiasm for the practice and I never have to ask her twice to do a job.”
The practice puts a high priority on charity work, and Kirsty has been instrumental in helping raise funds. Staff gathered £3,000 for Dentaid in 2014, mostly from stock sales. As oral health educator, Kirsty helped sell lots of oral hygiene products, including 20 electric toothbrushes in one month alone. She has also helped raise funds for Children in Need, and the ARCHIE Foundation.
“We did the ice bucket challenge last year,” Kirsty said. “Morven phoned up and said she was looking for volunteers and she knew right away that I would be up for it. I always grab any opportunity with both hands.”
That eagerness to help was one of the reasons Kirsty picked up the DCP Star award. And she’s thrilled with the recognition. “I was chuffed to win the award. I have been working very hard, but I knew it would be worth it and pay off at some point. I didn’t know Morven had put me forward, but she is good at recognising when someone is doing well; she won Employer of the Year for a reason.”
The awards proved to be a great exercise in team bonding, with many of their colleagues coming along to support Kirsty and Morven. Featured in the local press, the dual success helped reinforce the practice’s reputation.
With those distinctions under their belt, the aim now is to look forward. “At the moment, I’m continuing with practice manager training, and I hope to take some of the pressure off Morven, who also has two young children to care for. We want to see the practice grow and that’s happening – we’re currently registering more than 25 new patients a week.
“There’s a lot happening and we have recently added Six Month Smiles and facial rejuvenation to our offer. As always, we are looking to see what we can do to develop our service.”
It appears the practice knows where it wants to go – much like the practice manager.