Practice makes perfect community partner
At Tryst Dental practice, it’s not just patients who benefit from their focus on health
Community means a lot to Linsey Paton, the business manager at Tryst Dental Practice in Stenhousemuir. From the time she and her brother, encouraged by a PE teacher mum, took part in team sports at an early age, Linsey has relished working with others. Picking up the Community Award at the 2015 Scottish Dental Awards was confirmation of the achievements that have already been made under her guidance at Tryst. However, as Linsey said: “We’ve only just started.”
The practice’s successful community activity includes burgeoning links with Stenhousemuir Football Club and Larbert High School. Among other things, these have led to support for a walking football project and pupils delivering oral health presentations to their peers.
Linsey’s attachment to community participation was strengthened during a traumatic period in her teenage years. Her mother, who had become a special needs teacher, contracted ovarian cancer and passed away. Linsey was just 13 at the time.
Although we’ve achieved quite a lot in a short space of time, I believe we’re only at the beginning of what we want to do
Linsey Paton, business manager, Tryst Dental Practice
“One of the last things she did was to remind me to think of other people in everything I did,” said Linsey, “and that has always stuck with me.” Then, at 17, she had to endure severe ulcerative colitis, which culminated in major surgery at 18. What saved her, Linsey said, was the NHS.
After recovery, she went on to study Sport in the Community with Business at Strathclyde University. Then her career took an unexpected twist. “I’d had a part-time job in a data protection company,” Linsey explained. “I was subsequently offered a supervisor’s role, which turned into a good career opportunity when the business was taken over by the US business, Iron Mountain.”
A few years later, she had become Head of UK Scanning Services for another data protection firm when the chance to join Tryst came along. “I knew Lesley Donaldson, then an associate of Tryst Dental. Lesley had the opportunity to take over the practice in January 2014. However, she wanted to remain focused on developing the clinical aspects and improving patient care, so she asked if I would come and help with the business aspects. With clearly defined roles, I had scope to do something a bit different and thought we could give it a try. I subsequently joined full time in July 2014.”
In many ways, she said, her role is similar to that of a typical practice manager. The current focus is on developing new skills within the team, both to take the practice forward and allow Linsey to give more time to strategy development.
The ‘something different’ that Linsey mentions is part of the practice’s ethos; its commitment to community involvement. “We’re in a very community-focused area, and even though we have a large catchment, patients often know each other. I am extremely keen for us to play our part in that,” she said. As Linsey established the practice’s community links, she discovered willing partners in Stenhousemuir FC and Larbert High.
A straightforward offer of help to the football club led to Tryst’s sponsorship of a walking football project for men aged over 50. The practice provided initial funding, which was then doubled by sportsmatch, the Government scheme that encourages business investment in grassroots sport.
Linsey added: “I met some of the guys who took part in the football and they were very enthusiastic. It got me thinking that this is a great way to reach people and take forward the idea of partnership working in the dental sector. The more we’re able to send out messages around general health and wellbeing, the more doors will start opening.”
The contact with Stenhousemuir and their head of community Jamie Kirk allowed Linsey to find out about, and meet with, Billy Brotton, head of sport at Larbert High, who also looks after the Tryst Community Sports Hub. Soon, a new partnership had been established. “We’re helping to promote events and carrying out work in the school. Among other things, I’m planning to work with a pupil from each year group to help them put together a presentation on oral health that they will deliver to fellow students.
“Similarly, we are developing a dental work experience programme that’s properly controlled and regulated, and most importantly, allows students to demonstrate a valid record of achievement.”
Meanwhile at the practice, in addition to the professional development work Linsey is carrying out with colleagues, she is learning to be a dental nurse. “My NHS training begins in August and there are good reasons for making this move. From a business point of view, I can help out if we’re ever short-staffed. Perhaps more importantly, if I understand the ins and outs of the job, it makes it easier for me to relate to the nurses, and for them to have trust in me.”
Not content with the role of pupil, Linsey is acting as tutor too, working with the NHS Education department as a trainer for the practice managers’ vocational training scheme. She had originally considered undertaking the course, but the Education team persuaded Linsey that her business background would make her an effective trainer. So far, it has involved mentoring a practice manager from Edinburgh and she says that the seven hours she devotes every week have proved to be a rewarding experience.
This myriad activity helped Linsey stand out when it came to the Scottish Dental Awards. However, her nomination came as something of a surprise. “I was quite shocked,” she said. “Just to be shortlisted was fantastic, and on the night I was simply thinking about how good it was to be there.
“Similarly, although we’ve achieved quite a lot in a short space of time, I believe we’re only at the beginning of what we want to do. In some ways, the award has come early, but it was wonderful to win, and a real vindication of the work done by all of the team here.”
That success should provide a fillip as Linsey and her colleagues look to the future. “We are starting to look at new opportunities,” she said. “Our hope is that we’ll be able to put together roadshows with Stenhousemuir FC, the sports hub and, if all goes according to plan, the British Heart Foundation.
“The community aspect is something I really enjoy. Every business has its stresses and its routine, but if you pursue something you genuinely believe in, and that brings happiness to you and to others, you can be content that you’ve made a difference.”