Early Career Dental Ambassadors - Meet Natalie Bradley

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30 Sep 2019

The Faculty of Dental Surgery (FDS) is committed to promoting the highest standards of patient care. With almost 7,000 Fellows and Members worldwide and an extensive portfolio of exams and courses, the Faculty is changing the composition and duties of their regional representatives, encompassing support for the whole dental team. FDS has recently appointed a network of Dental Ambassadors across 17 geographical areas, who will influence and shape the direction of the sector. 

We spoke to Natalie Bradley and found out what it means for her to represent RCSEd as an Early Career Dental Ambassador.

Natalie grew in Nottingham and Kent before completing her undergraduate dental degree at Newcastle University. After graduating she moved to London where she gained experience working in general practice, hospital and community dentistry as well as completing a fellowship with NHS England and the Office of the Chief Dental Officer. She is an NHS Clinical Entrepreneur and currently undertaking her specialty training in Special Care Dentistry. Her blog 'A Tooth Germ' has reached over 400,000 views and she is active on Twitter and Instagram @natb990. 

1. What motivated you to pursue a career in dentistry?

I was always interested in a career in healthcare when I was younger but I didn't want to work in a hospital (which is ironic because that is now where I work!). My own dentist told me when I was 15 that I needed a root canal, so I went home and looked up what that meant and this sparked my interest. Thankfully I didn't actually have the root canal treatment in the end, but this inspired me to take up some dental work experience which I absolutely loved and since I have never looked back!

2. What got you interested in a role as an Early Careers Ambassador with RCSEd?

I recently completed a fellowship with the Office of the Chief Dental Officer and Faculty of Medical Leadership and Management scheme which helped me to develop my own leadership skills. During the year I was also able to meet with and influence key leaders in our profession. What struck me was the lack of diversity within these leaders and that some of them were not in touch with my cohort, the younger generation, the future of the profession. I saw this role as a way of connecting key leaders with early careers dentists who are working on the ground, not only so that when decisions are made, the younger generation of dentists have a say, but to also help younger dentists feel connected to the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh and understand its role in our professional landscape. 

 3. What does your role as an Early Careers Ambassador involve?

I imagine the finer details of the role will develop and change over time as these roles are the first of their kind, but I see this role as a way for the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh to listen to and connect with early careers dentists. This may result in opportunities or events targeted for this group of dentists. Having a network of ambassadors across the country will also help connect dentists across regions. I think this element of the role is crucial - it can be so easy for dentists to become isolated within the four walls of their surgery and for their morale to dip. Having these networks or hearing of opportunities across the country will help early careers dentists to stay connected to the profession and hopefully help inspire them to develop their own career path. 

4. How are you able to manage your workload and priorities?

This is something that has been challenging for me recently as I have several roles to juggle. It helps to stay super organised - everyone is different at their approach of how they do this. I am a huge fan of Google Calendar, planning each day the night before and having a general to do list to keep a track of. Making sure I have my own time when I don't have to think about teeth is really important too - so many dentists are now struggling with mental health problems or burn out. Ensuring we look after ourselves first will enable us to look after our patients and I think we often forget this. 

 5. What, in your experience, are the main challenges that dental students face when seeking graduate jobs?

I think that expectations of both dental students and dental practice owners can now vary. Many newly qualified dentists want to explore different options in their careers and may not wish to work full time for example. The rise of the 'portfolio career' is something a lot of millennials aspire to and diversifying their time means that working 9 to 5 in the same dental practice chugging out the UDAs doesn't seem very attractive. 

 6. What advice would you offer aspiring dentists?

My favorite advice I give a lot is say YES to everything. Now as someone who has to balance a lot of things at the moment, I'm having to learn to prioritise things, but as a newly qualified dentist you never know what career path you may end up taking. Making the most of every experience, every offer that comes your way I think is the best advice I can give; you never know which one may end up steering the rest of your career choices. Also remember that it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert in anything. With social media seemingly dictating to us that our composites need to look perfect, or we all need to learn how to place implants, or do facial aesthetics, we must remember that you need to master the basics first. This may mean spending a few years in general practice with that UDA target but you need that activity to hone your skills and don't be disheartened if you're not 100% happy with your shade matching or the way you carved that amalgam - it takes time and lots of practice!

7. What do you hope to achieve in your role as an Early Careers Ambassador?

I hope I can inspire early careers dentists and dental students and show them that dentistry is a fulfilling career where you can carve out your individual career path depending on what you enjoy. 

Visit the Faculty of Dental Surgery page to find out more about its upcoming activities. 



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