Zoe Holt didn’t dream about becoming a dental nurse when she was growing up. In fact, she had no idea what she wanted to do.
It wasn’t until she dropped out of studying Leisure and Tourism at college after two weeks that her aunt suggested she take a job at her dental practice as a trainee dental nurse.
After completing her training, Zoe joined East Kent Hospitals at the age of 18 as a dental nurse in the maxillofacial department.
She said: “I loved working there, it’s not for the faint of heart due to the blood and the drilling but I always enjoyed being a part of the team.”
When the Mouth Care Matters programme by Health Education England was implemented three years ago, she took the opportunity to become the lead for the Trust.
Zoe now works across all sites to check on inpatients’ oral care, educate them and ensure that they receive safe and compassionate care.
She said: “I became a dental nurse because of my aunt but I’m really grateful for that. I now get to help patients be able to eat, speak and socialise without any mouth care issues that could cause them embarrassment or impact on their wellbeing whilst in hospital.
“As well as looking after adults, I also work with children as part of the mini mouth care programme. I love meeting different types of people and hearing their stories, everyone is different so it keeps me on my toes.”
During the height of the pandemic, like many other nurses, Zoe was redeployed to help be an ITU buddy alongside her normal role as mouth care lead.
She said: “As an ITU buddy I was paired up with a nurse to help with anything from making up bags of oral care sponges, to collecting stock or equipment, to helping wash the patients - whatever they needed really.
“Being able to help at such a critical time was extremely rewarding and it gave me a greater insight into how challenging their roles are.
“I have enormous amounts of respect for everyone who works in ITU. I even had a moment of questioning, when I thought maybe I could train to become an ITU nurse but I know I’m exactly where I belong.”
Being a dental nurse during the pandemic has come with its own set of challenges and Zoe has found that her role has become even more important now.
Although dentistry and oral care ground to a halt because of the airborne risks they carry, providing a gold standard of mouth care for the most vulnerable patients is still vitally important.
Zoe encourages anyone who is thinking about becoming a dental nurse to go for it as it can be very rewarding.
She said: “Go for it. What have you got to lose? There are always going to be obstacles but you won’t know unless you try.”
For more information on oral healthcare, visit https://www.ekhuft.nhs.uk/patients-and-visitors/services/oral-healthcare/