I opened the practice here in Tain in August 2014 as a squat practice and it’s been challenging but good fun all the way. I was born and bred and studied in Glasgow, and had always worked in and around the central belt. Before leaving Glasgow I had recently completed a diploma in Primary Dental Care from Glasgow University. Up until 2014 I had been working as an associate in a large fully private practice in Hamilton, and also as a tutor and examiner for the MJDF diploma with the Royal College of Surgeons of England. I always felt a little unchallenged as an associate and the idea of setting up a squat practice really appealed to me. My other half, Gemma, is a Highlander (from Portree) and was always keen on getting out of the city, particularly as we now had a young family. The opportunity to occupy the dental area of the new Tain Health Centre was advertised in the BDJ, and having holidayed in the area previously it ticked all the boxes for me, so I jumped at the chance.
For the first year it was myself and a VT hygiene therapist. I was largely building up NHS registrations within the practice. We had to learn on our feet, as we were fully booked from the day we opened the doors. The therapist was a great help but it was a tough slog of a year as being the only dentist here, there was no one else to see any emergencies, and apart from bank holidays I didn’t get any time off at all till July 2015. In May 2015, all the practice staff completed the Edinburgh Marathon relay as two teams. We managed to raise over £1000 for the Highland Hospice along the way, and had a great night out in Edinburgh.
In 2015, I took on a VT dentist for the first time, and took on another in 2016. I really enjoy VT training and it helps keep us all fresh and on our toes in the practice. During 2016 we reached capacity with NHS registrations and began accepting private new patient registrations only. Having worked previously in a practice which had a large focus on care plans, I looked around at options and was delighted to find HDP and become part of this community. I was really impressed with the educational programme put on by HDP among other things. Our patients have taken very well to the dental plans and we got a lot of invaluable help from Gary Moore in setting them up and promoting them to the patients.
2017 has been a busy year so far. I started a fellowship with NHS Education for Scotland in Quality Improvement which will lead to an MSc from Dundee University. Gemma and I also had our third baby in April. We are opening a third surgery within the practice, and have a new associate relocating from Dundee in August to begin working from it. This will mean we will be moving to a three dentist practice and will make my life a whole lot easier! At the minute I have a very large list and am also so busy with orthodontic treatment plans that I’m booked up over two months ahead. It’s good to be busy though! We’re all signed up to do The Beast Race in September at Loch Ness. It’s a 10k race with over 20 obstacles thrown in so should be great fun.
The practice in Tain is a really great building to work from. Everything is all new, with great facilities including shower rooms, and we have absolutely stunning views over the Dornoch firth from the practice. We’re co-located here with a PDS clinic, two GP practices, podiatrists, physiotherapists, midwifes, community nurses and health visitors so it’s a really sociable building. It’s very handy having a PDS clinic here as it is very easy to refer difficult patients to them, and I get lots of referrals from them for private treatment and orthodontics.
We’ve got a really great team here with two therapists in addition to the dentists here. I’m very lucky to have found very capable and lovely nursing staff, we work hard to use DCPs to their full scope of practice, and we have extended duty dental nurses providing OHI and fluoride applications, taking impressions, clinical photography and radiography. They also construct study models, bleaching trays, special trays, splints, and essix retainers from within the practice so it’s very much a team game. Having made the big leap and moved from a tenement flat in Glasgow to living in a field in the Highlands, I could never go back and feel really lucky to be able to live in such a beautiful spot on the Tarbat peninsula. It still surprises me to think that we’ve only been here three years now and I’m excited to see what the future brings for us here!