A BTEC in Health Studies inspired Kirsty to pursue a career in healthcare which began as an agency auxiliary nurse at age 18. Caring for the elderly and those with learning disabilities through to palliative care provision gave her valuable exposure to a range of patient needs, ultimately leading to a BTEC in Dental Nursing whilst training as a dental nurse.
Five years on and seeking greater involvement in patient dental care provision alongside a new career challenge, Kirsty applied to study Dental Therapy at the University of Plymouth. Initially unsuccessful, she pursued an access Allied Healthcare course at Cornwall College Saltash, achieving Distinction and passing her GCSE in mathematics, and applied again to university. One of 200 applicants for 16 places, Kirsty was accepted for Plymouth’s 2015 intake and graduated in 2018 winning the Nicola Jameson Award for Hygiene for her excellent clinical performance during her studies.
Working as a post-graduate locum therapist, Kirsty initially covered maternity leave at a private dental practice in Kingsbridge and worked in a Plymouth-based NHS practice before joining an independent practice in Salcombe as a self-employed therapist working mixed NHS and private, utilising her ability to carry out direct access and build her own patient list. Kirsty explains: “This was a great move to a very supportive practice environment, working with colleagues who were clear about the scope of a dental therapist. I was encouraged to apply my skills to their full potential – everything from check-ups to treatment planning and delivery”.
Seeking a new and complementary career challenge and by reducing her routine care provision days in Salcombe, Kirsty started working at Derriford Hospital two days per week in maxillofacial and dental surgery, providing head and neck cancer clinical support alongside orthodontics and restorative dental care. This exposure to patients with complex needs identified further training requirements for Kirsty and in 2021 she began studying a Post-Graduate Diploma in Aesthetic and restorative Dentistry with Smile Dental Academy which, alongside hands-on training, necessitates monthly travel to London.
Whilst retaining her two hospital days, Kirsty moved from Salcombe to join Smile Together in May 2023, explaining: “It was the right time for me to take up an employed salaried therapist position in the new Keast Mews Dental Centre in Saltash. Not only do I gain greater job security, but I get to take guilt-free time off for holidays with my children, plus access further development opportunities whilst treating a broader patient demographic. The breadth of dentistry provided here is more likely to fulfil my interest in sedation and further restorative and special care dentistry skill development”.
Despite her own dental phobia and late ADHD diagnosis, Kirsty has never held back on bettering herself and pursuing her career ambitions. In fact, she firmly believes that her ability to hyper-focus is part of her success in such an interesting and complex arena as dentistry, where every patient requirement is different.
When asked about what she most enjoys about being a dental therapist with Smile Together, Kirsty says: “It’s the ability to be autonomous combined with the amazing support we get from the principal dentist Liz and practice manager Hannah. I can use my initiative and confidently treatment plan, thus am not deskilling or losing confidence within my therapist full scope of practice. There’s a greater diversity to the patient base here and the treatment needs are often more complex, with some coming along who haven’t been to the dentist for some years and/or become phobic, so I need to think on my feet and keep my research skills up to date! It’s so hugely rewarding with our patients liking what we do here and entrusting us with their care.”
Outside of work Kirsty enjoys surfing and walking the beautiful coastal footpath and moorlands with her partner and children (although they join in less now they’re getting older)! She loves to travel so now she can guarantee taking time off work, her holiday plans are underway, initially to Edinburgh and ultimately one year, Indonesia.