On the Job


On the job with Fiona Bruce, Dental Assistant.

On the job Fiona BruceI’m not sure when I became I member – possibly in 2009. I became a delegate in 2015. I’ve had various jobs in my working life but the one that has popped up three times is dentistry. I became a Dental Assistant in 1980, working in private practice in Dunedin.

I am fortunate to have been employed twice over the last 16 years by the University of Otago’s School of Dentistry. As a child, I would use my father’s hand drill to drill into the mouth of my sister’s doll and then fill it with baking soda, only to repeat the procedure all over again. Perhaps I was destined to be in this field one way or another.

Dental Assisting has changed quite significantly since I started, not only in materials and technology but in the way we step into different roles. We set up and prepare all surgical areas for the day, whether it be in a general clinic for students and clinicians, specialised clinics or all oral surgery procedure rooms.

Greeting and guiding patients to “the chair” and offering support is an important part of our jobs, as quite a lot of patients find it very difficult to walk through the door, let alone sit in a dental chair. For me, it’s important they have a positive experience and know that it’s not somewhere to fear but where something is being done to help them.

The word “assistant” doesn’t cover the role adequately, in my opinion. At the School we do assist the clinician but we also handle chemicals on a daily basis, and we fall into the role of nurse when patients, students and occasionally staff faint or have any other medically-related incidents. We become a mentor and confidante to anyone who needs someone to listen at times of stress.

We have challenging times ahead at the School, as we are in the process of building a wonderful clinical service block while refurbishing the existing building. Questions are always on the agenda at staff meetings and being a delegate has helped me “find a voice” I didn’t know I had.

I am always encouraged by colleagues and know I am their voice when called upon. It has been an interesting learning experience for me and I have grown to believe that when you need help in any form you always have someone to call on throughout the PSA.