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What's the Best Choice, Nursing or Dentistry?

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17th June 21

Healthcare nursing and dental nursing are both great options for a nursing career. But if both careers appeal to you, it can be hard to know which to pursue. Both roles have different focuses and duties, ample job and progression opportunities. But the best choice for you will depend on many factors.

Both types of nurse help patients maintain their health. They aid in the treatment of disease, injuries and infections, and provide patients with preventative care.

Dental nurses specialise in oral health, focusing on assisting dental patients with problems relating to their teeth, gums and mouth. Whereas healthcare nurses will help patients experiencing all manner of health problems. They can also specialise to work with particular patient groups or within specific areas of healthcare. Becoming an ICU nurse, working with children, individuals with learning disabilities or mental health issues, for instance.

These nurses also work under the supervision of senior medical and dental professionals. Helping dentists, doctors and surgeons administer treatment, perform procedures and surgeries that can improve their health, lives and confidence.

If you’re considering either option, it’s useful to find out more about what each role involves before embarking on your studies. Read on below for more information surrounding each role, the skills you need and where your career could take you.

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The role of a Healthcare Nurse

With the diversity of healthcare provisions, there are many areas in which you can work as a nurse. And your duties can vary according to the environment in which you’re employed.

Generally, your day would consist of supporting patient recovery by using care plans and carrying out prescribed procedures. You’d focus your energy on evaluating the needs of the patient, as opposed to the illness or condition. Which includes anything from monitoring their blood pressure or heart rate to bodily functions.

You will also help patients with practical tasks like washing, dressing and moving around. As such, you’ll need to be perceptive to their needs. Also monitoring their condition to respond to sudden changes swiftly and effectively.

If you decide to become a paediatric nurse, you would be working with children with minor illnesses, serious, or life-limiting conditions. Your duties include supporting the family as much as they do caring for your young patients.

As a mental health nurse, you’ll work with your patients and the wider network of professionals involved in their care. This can include their carers, doctors and support network. You can also work in a diverse range of settings and within teams with various functions. Some roles are based within ‘in-patient’ settings like hospitals or psychiatric units. Here you would aid in the recovery of patients requiring a period of constant care.

You could work as a special educational needs (SEN) nurse. In this role, you would be part of a multi-disciplinary team of professionals supporting some of the most at-risk individuals. You would strive to promote health and wellbeing and enable typically socially excluded individuals to live as fully an independent life as possible. These will be individuals with a diverse range of needs, including children and the elderly.

Salary and Career Progression

As a healthcare nurse, there are ample routes for you to progress your career. Once you’ve completed your training, you can work in settings that align yourself with your ideal position.

You could move up the career ladder into a position with more responsibilities:

  • Advanced nurse practitioner
  • Lead nurse
  • Matron
  • Nurse consultant
  • Senior staff nurse
  • Ward sister/charge nurse

Or take further training to specialise in particular areas of nursing like:

  • Accident and emergency
  • Cancer
  • District
  • Intensive care
  • Occupational health
  • Practice
  • Sexual health

Once fully qualified, you can expect to start on £24,907 per year in the NHS. Experienced nurses can earn between £31,365 to £37,890, and those in senior positions can earn anything up to £73,664.

To get started as a nurse in any capacity, you’ll need to study a nursing degree approved by the Nursing and Midwifery Council.

learndirect - Should I choose nursing or dentistry?

The Role of a Dental Nurse

For the most part, dental nurses will work in private dental clinics or within the dental department of a hospital.

Other dental nurses may work in the community, providing domiciliary care to patients who are unable to attend appointments. This often involves a fair amount of travel but it’s important to make sure vulnerable people and those with limited ability maintain good dental hygiene.

You’ll generally work regular daytime hours unless your clinic provides emergency treatment which requires you to sometimes be on call. While you will see patients with different needs, the core responsibilities of a dental nurse are the same.

They include:

  • Advising patients on oral hygiene
  • Carrying out stock control
  • Organising and handing instruments to dentists or hygienists
  • Preparing fillings and other dental materials
  • Processing and filing x-rays
  • Providing support and reassurance to patients
  • Recording and filing patient information
  • Sterilising instruments
  • Suctioning water and saliva during treatment
  • Tidying and cleaning the dental surgery

Salary and Career Progression

Once in a dental nursing role, you can complete further training to widen your skillset and take on more responsibility. You can become qualified to take x-rays, clinical photographs and impressions. Or you could learn how to make models of teeth and apply fluoride varnish to prevent tooth decay.

With experience in your dental nursing role, you could train to become a dental hygienist, dental therapist or an orthodontic therapist. You can also become an oral health educator and further enable people to manage their dental hygiene.

As a newly qualified dental nurse, you can expect to earn around £19,000. With experience in the role, you could potentially exceed £35,000 a year.

You can become a dental nurse by completing a NEBDN certified and GDC approved National Diploma in Dental Nursing.

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Get Started Online

Whether you choose nursing in a healthcare or dentistry capacity, you can progress towards either role with an online course.

An Access to Higher Education Diploma (Nursing) provides an excellent base of knowledge for aspiring nurses. Which can be built on, with further study at university in an approved nursing degree. This course also goes in place of A Level qualifications. Making it easier to go to university without traditional level 3 qualifications.

For dental nursing, we provide an NEBDN certified and GDC approved National Diploma in Dental Nursing. After which, you can register yourself with the dental regulating body, the General Dental Council (GDC), as a Dental nurse. We also provide many additional dentistry related courses to add to your skillset and help you progress in your role.

A great benefit of our courses is the ability to complete the theory element online. You can work through the course materials at your pace and complete them as quickly as you like. Courses that contain practical elements or a placement will also enable you to gain vital hands-on experience.

Find out more about how you can kick start your nursing career with learndirect. As the leading UK distance learning provider, we have numerous courses to help start and further your career.

Click below to view our dental science faculty and related qualifications.

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