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What’s it like being a... special care dentist and a community dental officer? Natalie Bradley

Blog Author Natalie Bradley

Blog Date 08/01/2019

Natalie Bradley works in London as Special Care Dentistry Registrar and as a Community Dental Officer. She is also an OCDO/FMLM Clinical Fellow, hosted by NHS England (South). She tells us about her day…


My alarm goes off….

My week varies so much! 


Often I get up around 7am to walk (or use my push scooter) either to the hospital or to the train station; however if it's a general anaesthetic day I will be up at 6am. 


I'll either have cereal, or if I'm up earlier I will take breakfast with me to have on the train - usually a bagel. 


I'm responsible for..

My week is split between my registrar training and a fellowship, based with the commissioning team at NHS England. 


My registrar training is also a split post which complicates things even more! 

Either I'll be at a busy university teaching hospital, where I'll be seeing special care patients, or supervising undergraduate students, or I will at a district general hospital working alongside consultants in special care dentistry. 

I see patients referred from across the South of England, within a team of consultants, other registrars and core trainees as well as postgraduate and undergraduate students.

When I'm working with NHS England, myself and another fellow work on the same project, but again, we work across the whole of the South East of England. 

The dental team working within NHS England is made up of around 20 people, ranging from contract managers to commissioning support assistants.  We work in the same offices as the other primary care teams, e.g. GP, pharmacy, etc. 


I got the job!

Since my first job in hospital I always found treating special care patients very fulfilling. 

Spending two years working in the community dental services confirmed this for me, and I was lucky to work with lots of inspiring and knowledgeable clinicians, who encouraged me to develop my skills, for example, in sedation. 


Some of my close mentors helped me to find areas of dentistry which I particularly enjoyed, such as dentistry for homeless patients, and it's definitely the network of mentors around me which have helped me get to where I am now. 


My typical day

Every day for me is different at the moment. Mondays are days which I spend on admin, projects, research and teaching. 


Tuesdays I spend treating special care patients often under sedation which can include phobic patients, patients who gag, those with complex medical problems or those with learning or physical disabilities. 


Wednesdays I spend all day in theatre, again treating special care patients under general anaesthetic or sedation or seeing urgent ward referrals from elsewhere in the hospital. 


The end of the week is spent with the commissioners which can at meetings or working on projects such as the recommissioning of the community dental services across the South of England. 


My biggest achievement to date


I think this has to be setting up a homeless dental service across East London, where we took a mobile dental van to hostels and day centres. It was an amazing experience, incredibly fulfilling, and it really felt like I was making a difference.


The worst part of my job…

I think the most difficult thing for me is working very closely with patients who often go through such traumatic events in their lives. From working with someone who is sleeping rough as a result of drug addiction to someone who has just been diagnosed with cancer or working with young patients who suffered traumatic brain injuries – it's incredible how much hardship people go through.


It's hard not to take the burden of all these peoples' problems home with you and it can become very overwhelming. While compassion and empathy are very important, taking care of your own wellbeing and mental health is essential when working with any patient group. 

The best part of my job…

I love working in such a motivated, friendly and hardworking team who don't seem to be phased by anything!


From squeezing a ward referral in between patients, to singing Elvis Presley to a patient with autism to help him cope with cannulation…. nothing is ever too much of an ask!


After work…


I am very active on Social media: I have my own blog, 'A Tooth Germ', which I write for regularly and I am a compulsive tweeter and Instragrammer!


I am also a secret metal head and love going to concerts regularly, and I recently became a parent to three bunny rabbits.


My Plan B

I think I'd love to be a vocalist in a metal band!


I used to be in a band when I was a teenager but there are some amazing female vocalists in my favourite metal bands who I really admire.


natalie-bradley-thumbnail-125px.jpgNatalie Bradley, Special Care Dentistry Registrar, OCDO/FMLM Clinical Fellow hosted by NHS England (South) and Community Dental Officer, Clinical Lead for Homeless Provision



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