Nicola Barr Clinical Director Smile Together Dental CIC

Nicola Barr

Clinical Director and Orthodontic Dentist – West Country Dental Care (WCDC)

In order to keep my dentistry skills current, I spend three days per week practising in clinic where my patients comprise children requiring orthodontic work. I am an executive Board member for Smile Together and as such have a range of strategic leadership and management responsibilities within our employee-owned social enterprise, and as Clinical Director I have overall responsibility for the WCDC clinical team.

I induct and line manage our team of dentists, therapists and WCDC managers, ensuring the whole team operates to agreed and statutory procedures, guidelines and compliance frameworks, and consistently delivers excellent patient care. I lead on strategic team communications, being accessible to guide and help my team resolve issues as they arise, including our response to more complex incidents and/or patient complaints, and am our safeguarding lead. I monitor the performance of WCDC in relation to contractual targets and lead our clinical recruitment priorities accordingly. I helped formulate and lead the implementation of our plan regarding provision of community special care and paediatric dentistry through recruitment, individual and team development, liaising with organisations and clinicians nationally to engage their practical support for our patients. I also led on the clinical planning for our brand new purpose designed and accessible dental centre at Harleigh Road in Bodmin. I enjoy being an ambassador for Smile Together and as such I am our LDC (Local Dental Committee) representative and I also represent us at the South West Paediatric and Special Care Managed Clinical Network.

I was the inaugural chair of our elected Staff Council, with a seat on the Board, and although I stepped aside when I assumed the clinical director role I have remained a member and I also attend Quality Committee meetings. I enjoy engaging with colleagues across our organisation but find one of the biggest challenges in my role is time!

So what attracted me to dentistry? I loved studying sciences at school but knew I didn’t want to be a doctor, so I did my work experience in the local MaxFax department whereby I assisted the orthodontist and hygienist, and spent 2 weeks in the lab waxing up false teeth and other weird and wonderful facial prostheses. My passion for dentistry grew from there and after a taster weekend at Liverpool University in 6th Form entitled ‘So you want to be a dentist?’ where we got to restore plastic teeth and fissure seal them, I applied to Dental School and secured a place at Liverpool University School of Dentistry. I really loved orthodontics at Dental School yet was offered a MaxFax job as a Senior House Officer at the Royal Cornwall Hospital Trust. It was a fabulous year – on call, surgical extractions, apicectomies, working in theatres – my favourite clinic was the Soft Tissue Clinic where we did all the biopsies. I went on to do my year as a Vocational Trainee in Redruth and ended up staying in practice, then worked as a general NHS dentist for a number of years until at last being offered a hard to come by position at RCH as a Clinical Assistant in Orthodontics. Working in private practice had showed me ‘the other side’ and I will always thank the principle there for showing me how to do a perfect composite restoration.

When I then started in the Community Dental Service as a Dental Officer doing Access, I tried my hand at being a VT trainer and also a mentor to a dental student on placement. My Clinical Director knew I had orthodontic experience so when the Senior Dental Officer in Orthodontics retired, and they struggled to recruit a replacement, I was invited to do a couple of days each week orthodontics. As the need increased, I was able to do more until eventually I stopped doing Access and focused on orthodontics, eventually transitioning into what is now Smile Together.

I like to know what is going on and how I can help shape our company and keep the needs of clinical colleagues at the forefront of any decisions made, so when I was asked to become Interim Clinical Director it seemed like a natural step – albeit a steep learning curve!

It’s a truly inspiring environment here and I love seeing the excellent work we do for our patients and the positive impact it has on their lives. Having worked in general practice I wanted a salaried position rather than the pressure of being self-employed under the control of a practice owner, and I like to work with like-minded colleagues with a large support network of peers, so to someone considering working for Smile Together I would say ‘go for it’!

Being a Mum takes up most of my time outside of work but I love spending time at the beach and going out for coffee and cake!

The fun bit

Cats or dogs? Dogs – I used to have a crazy Weimaraner

Surfing or sunbathing? Sunbathing

Manual or electric toothbrush? Manual

Cornish cider or gin? Cider

Mini or VW Campervan? Campervan (have you seen how tall I am?!)

Peace and quiet or loud and lively? Peace and quiet

Flossing or interdental brushing? Flossing

Full on roast or salad? Roast!

Football or rugby? Pass

Rock or classical? Rock

Under cover or outside in the elements? Being outside in the elements, ideally on a Cornish beach!