Tegan Tapner

Dental Nursing FdSc

View the course
  • Year of study: First year (in 2021/22)
  • Length of course: Two years

Your University Experience

Why did you decide to study at the University of Northampton?

It was one of the only places that offers and has been running the Dental Nursing Foundation degree for a few years – the lecturers have worked in the industry and have an immense plethora of knowledge, so I wanted to learn from the best. The entire campus is newly built and the student perks scheme also helped, as new students are given the choice of a laptop to keep, or money off campus accommodation, or food. Also, the support with academic writing is impressive – you can book time with one-to-one tutors as much as you like, which I’ve found useful with every assessment so far.

Career aspirations

What are your career goals/aspirations?

My long-term goal is to use my degree as a formal qualification platform to help me progress further (perhaps into hygiene or orthodontic therapy). Since being on the course, I’ve found that I’m more than prepared to be qualified as a dental nurse and this has benefitted me greatly in placement, where I’ve been able to demonstrate my professional knowledge. Pursuing an academic degree route has opened many doors for me, which might not have happened if I’d chosen to do an apprenticeship.

How do you think your studies will help your career or personal development when you graduate?

The course will allow me to register with the GDC as a qualified dental nurse. As it covers both theory and placement, I now have the work experience behind me to get a job straight after qualifying, as well as the confidence, knowledge and professionalism to work safely.

Which, if any, skills and knowledge/understanding gained on your degree do you feel will be most useful in your future career?

One of the first things we learnt, and that I have used every day in and out of placement, is working safely with sharps, hygiene, infection and cross-contamination control. When working in healthcare, especially a dental practice, it’s so important to maintain high hygiene standards. The depth of knowledge I’ve learnt about health and safety is amazing, but essential and necessary in order to protect both yourself and patients.

Your Placement

Does your course offer a placement? If you’ve completed one, please detail where this was, the role, and an outline of your duties.

Yes, it does. I finished 150 hours of placement over 20 weeks, starting in January 2022. First year students go to a dental practice (in the second year its community, orthodontics and/or hospitals). You work as a dental nurse supporting the dentist chairside, but with a practice assessor (usually another dental nurse), so you’re never alone. Quickly though you’ll be wanting to work independently, as everything you’ve learnt in term one prepares you for placement. I wished I was on placement every day because I had the knowledge, it was just about refining my skills, which is the most fun part of the course in my opinion. Your duties include greeting and seating patients, supporting the dentist chairside passing instruments, suctioning, mixing materials, being a sympathetic ear for patients, filling in treatment plans, and updating patient notes/history.

Please describe how your placement benefitted you?

I was lucky enough to be at a practice where both NHS and private treatments were carried out, which really opened my eyes to the demands and expectations of patient care. I feel that this has prepared me to get a job in practice, which some of my fellow students have already done at weekends.

What employability skills did you develop during your placement?

I’ve enhanced my communication skills, confidence and professionalism, as well as knowledge about dentistry. Also working well under pressure, maintaining accurate records, and a pleasant disposition.

How do you think the placement will help you with gaining employment after graduating?

I gained essential feedback during placement which will help me refine my skills and have come out with many attributes which I’ll be able to use to create an impressive CV.

Do you have any tips on applying for or getting the most benefit from your placement?

On the dental nursing course, we’re lucky enough that our placement is found for us by our academic assessor. However, if you want to find your own, which may be closer to home, that can also be an option. In year one, your placement is found within 20 miles of the University, and within 50 miles in year two.

What advice would you give a student about to begin a placement?

No one can believe that during the first term, you’ll be prepared to start working in a real practice after Christmas – but you will and it’ll be fine! Make sure you get involved as much as possible from the beginning. Don’t shy away in the corner and observe, as the dentist and nurse will appreciate the help. Remember that they were once in your position, so they understand what it’s like – but also if you don’t ask, they won’t wait for you, as they have very busy schedules and often a short time limit per patient, so use your confidence to put trust in them and the patients you work on.

Extra-Curricular Activities

Do you do any extra-curricular activities at UON?

Yes, I’m the class student rep for dental nursing.

How do you think these extra-curricular activities will enhance your career prospects?

It shows that I’ve taken on the responsibility to advocate on behalf of the class, to give our thoughts on our education and to make suggestions for areas of improvement, if any. It shows leadership, good communication skills with my peers and lecturers, organisation of gaining feedback, and setting a time to contact and discuss feedback in a meeting.

Your Advice

In one sentence, what advice would you give to undergraduates interested in this career path or anything you wish you had known earlier?

Make sure you turn up to the lectures – sometimes it might seem repetitive, but this will benefit your and others’ learning greatly, as you learn from each other which helps the knowledge to stick in your head more.

In ten words, or less how would you summarise your UON experience?

It has completely changed my life for the better!