Saturday, 23 March 2013

Memoirs of a mover (and shaker, so I’m told)


I am quite outspoken; you may have noticed. I accept this and know it is true, but I do have a high set of ethics that when mixed with my ability to place my size 9 feet in it, can get me into situations that whilst I do not regret what I say/do it may have consequences. I did this last year and lost a job; I was working 6 day a week and then lost a job and ever since have only worked 3 days. Those more numerically skilled amongst you will notice that this is a 50% reduction in income; a bit of a shocker I promise.


The world of dentistry is flat; I mean this in an economic way. There is no growth in general dental practice and jobs in dental hygiene are few and far between. It is not so much that people are losing jobs (although you hear stories) more that most of us are staying put and the dynamics that were present 5 or 6 years ago are not there. Remember those days when you could leave a job on Monday and be in a new one by Friday? Not anymore.


Let me make this clear, this is not a sob story and is more a story of opportunity and change. My predicament has presented me with opportunity that I never dreamed about, Despite outward appearance I am not that good at self-promotion and have no entrepreneurial skills and whilst I have lots of good ideas I never develop them so I have not perhaps been as pro-active as some think I should but hey, I am happy.


I have, as I get older, realised that I am not as motivated by money as I once though I was; I currently have none. I moved the last few hundred pound I had in savings into my bank account a few days ago so the house is now on the market and has to go before the repossession order arrives; priced to sell, if interested give me a buzz…


Okay, perhaps a bit pessimistic but facts are facts; there is work out there but it is predominately in the south and it appears that the rich are getting richer. I cannot afford to move “down south” and I have a huge network of friends and colleagues and I am truly grateful for their support and whenever work comes up they immediately contact me; brilliant, but every alternate Tuesday in Bracknell is no good to me. I have scoured the job sites, journals and other sources looking for suitable work but all in vain, that was until January 2013….


In the British Dental Journal “community appointments” I espied an advert for an employed position in the Shetland Islands; that’s correct, you read it correctly and yes, it is in the most northerly outpost of the United Kingdom and it really appeals to me. I have, over the years spent time in remote places and enjoyed it immensely; I lived for 6 months in Port Stanley in the Falkland Islands and count this time as amongst the best experiences of my life…. I digress as I reminisce


Anyhow; nothing ventured, nothing gained so I applied for the position. Imagine my surprise (and delight) when I was offered an interview and perhaps fate was smiling on me as I had the week crossed off yet had no firm plans. Frantic planning was required as getting to the Islands requires a little bit of co-ordination but needless to say, I booked flights, taxis and accommodation and confirmed my attendance at interview.


I went on my merry way and as the very small aircraft started its descent into Sumburgh airport I was mesmerised, the islands looked just how I imagined them and I knew it was for me, forever. I attended my interview but I will not bore you with details but it was a pleasant experience and I had some time to explore Lerwick and its surrounds which I happily did. I was disappointed that my pre-conceived ideas  were shattered as there were not endless bearded crofters in Arran jumpers carrying crooks, quite the opposite as Lerwick is a thriving and busy modern small town.

NHS Shetland is unusual in many respects but more so that most of the dental provision in the Islands is provided by salaried practitioners yet the practices take fees from patients; let me make this clear for those in England and Wales that may not understand this. It is NOT a community job, but it is salaried services. Shetland has a population of 22500+ a figure that is slowly increasing as more choose to select a more peaceful life. I want to be part of this close community that supports itself from within rather than looking outwardly all the time.


This is a concept that I really feel our profession could benefit from and perhaps looking inwardly and seeking knowledge that is inherent within is something we should be doing but that is another 3 or 4000 word essay…


Well, back to Blighty I arrive and get on with things and I, like most people think nothing of the interview yet wonder if there will be a job offer at some point. A few days goes by then BHAM… out of the blue a phone call offering me the job. Oh me, oh my; what to do? I have the Dentistry Show hygienists and therapist’s symposium to chair and so much to do. Like the White Rabbit from Alice in Wonderland I am somewhat flustered by this and ask if I can consider for a few days? “of course” comes the reply, so much to think about eeek.


Okay, pros and cons list made and worked on and I fail to see any drawback; really I am struggling. Reasonable pay, pension, great stable working hours, clinical freedom great well equipped surgeries. That said, the Islands have the most expensive petrol in the UK which is a bit ironic given that much of the North Sea crude oil passes through terminals here but such is life. The cost of living compares well with mainland UK otherwise and there is, in Lerwick 2 curry houses, 2 Chinese restaurants, a large Tesco superstore and a large Co-Op supermarket as well as great restaurants, bars, coffee houses so here we come.


I have accepted the job and now the chess pieces are falling into places; the formal offer has arrived, the forms are filled in, HIV test booked (got to be clean), already got a goatee so the full face beard not difficult. As I continue with my preparations I will write again. As Del Boy often said “He who dares…”

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