Oh the places I will go – Part 3 – Bounceback

Part 1 – The World at my feet

Part 2 – The World at my feet – in pieces

18th March 1993

My 40th birthday and a very significant date in the life of my practice. In the wake of the 1990 NHS contract and subsequent clawback of fees a group of dentists in Gloucestershire “held hands and jumped” to remove our dependence on the NHS. Several of us had things in common, we were of similar age, had big loans and couldn’t see how we could square the circle of carrying on providing our best for patients and continue to make a living.

With the assistance of the fledgling group, Gloucestershire Independent Dentists (GID) and supported by each other, in the words of Judith Cameron, we leapt and the net appeared. Some practices changed overnight, I was more cautious and transitioned over a 12 month period, giving all my adult, non-exempt, patients one last NHS course of treatment. This enabled me to have a conversation about the why, how, when and who of the changes. In those days Denplan was just about the only game in town and Gloucestershire became “Denplan county”.

I dreaded making the change, I anticipated wholesale rejection, arguments, insults and my hard work unravelling in minutes. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Because I changed gradually, and every patient received a letter ahead of their next visit plus good PR from GID, the word had got round. I allowed time to talk to explain my motives and to offer alternatives. The overwhelming feeling was one of acceptance, some begrudging, some cancelled their appointments “on principle”, some disappeared and then reappeared. More patients that I expected just said, “I’m surprised it has taken you this long, you have been giving private service since you opened.”

Instead of it being a catastrophe it was a tiny bump in the road. At the same time I started studying with the Open University on their MBA course which was really useful but due to circumstances beyond my control I was never able to complete. I also enrolled with Dr Mike Wise’s year long restorative course which also made me raise my game.

So I found myself with a largely private practice. There was still a significant NHS commitment because of the number of children we had attracted, which took a lot of management but worked extremely well and became a model for others to follow.

Things were looking up, I had managed to get a mortgage after a couple of years of banks not wanting to touch me with a bargepole, had remarried and our son was born in early April.

Life was good and the challenges were under control. The work was no less hard but the road was looking smoother.

I wonder what they would have made of my Social Media profile?

Application for employment

In August 1978 I started my first “proper” job. By proper I mean a job that meant I had satisfied my university examiners and was fit to be registered with the GDC. The interview process was a bit of a cattle market with all the candidates for dental house officer posts at The London Hospital being interviewed and awarded on the same day. My memory is of a full room with all the candidates trying to out-do each other in terms of experience, knowledge and who had the best referees. John “Sam” Holmes and myself had just left Newcastle each with a shiny new BDS which meant we were 6 months behind all the London graduates who qualified in a term over 4 years compared with our 5. We both decided that the two posts for which we had applied, the resident Oral Surgery House Officer jobs, were bound to be given to the more vocal candidates, the ones who had told us how good they were.

We were wrong. They wanted something that we had. I had completed an application form of sorts and submitted a curriculum vitae (cv). The Dean in Newcastle, Professor Roy Storer had given us a lecture and a handout on writing your cv, or resume, and I realised over the next few years of job interviews that other candidates did not possess such a polished document to back up their applications. I was also supported by (good) references from Prof Storer and my Oral Surgery mentor Stewart Blair.

So a document and an interview. I had not been an outstanding student in terms of academia but had enjoyed a very full life at university. I shudder to think what my Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat etc, etc profiles would have looked like. Probably they would have had details of rugby trips, skinny dipping in Leazes Park in the snow and countless parties.

A report in CIPD this week says that, “Third of employers have turned down candidates because of their social media profile”.

Around a third (36 per cent) of the 4,000 HR professionals surveyed said they had declined to interview a candidate, or had rejected an applicant they had already interviewed, after checking their social media posts, while 65 per cent Googled prospective employees.

The process works both ways, however: 28 per cent of jobseekers said their view of an organisation was influenced by what they read about it on websites such as Glassdoor, and they were less likely to apply if they formed an unfavourable impression.

I do wonder what Prof Gordon Seward (my first boss) and the great and the good of London Hospital dentistry sitting around the boardroom table grilling me would have thought of my undergraduate antics. Would they have dismissed me out of hand because of my behaviour on a Dental Students Field Day, not offered me an interview due to the bill for damages when I spoke at the Agric-Dental debate or withdrawn the offer after seeing the photos from my mobile disco Facebook page?

If they did, and I gather from talking to clients that it is, understandably, common practice to Google prospectives, what would they have missed? What could I have missed?

We live in a world that seems to be getting more and more obsessed with safety, where every prospective student and job candidate ticks the correct boxes. Take no risks and you will never accomplish anything.

Beware of throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

It was 35 years ago today and my life changed.

This day in 1981 was a Thursday. I had completed an SHO post at Withington and wanted a change from oral surgery after 32 months in 3 contrasting hospitals. Back in my parents’ home in Cambridgeshire I picked up the BDJ and rang the number of the closest practice that was advertising for an associate.

“Could I come for an interview the next day?” Looking smart in a three piece suit, I drove my green TR7 thirty miles up the A1 to Bretton in Peterborough for inspection. The practice was modern, the principals young and we seemed to get along OK. They took me for lunch at a local golf club and we agreed that I would start a week later. My meticulous cv stayed in my pocket, my referees were not troubled.

Whilst I was waiting to meet the partners I sat in the practice office with the practice manager, a stern lady called Muriel who had moved, with her family, to the expanding city from her native Belfast to escape the troubles. I was aware that several nurses came to the office, they were apparently “looking for pencils or pens” but in fact were casting their eyes over the new candidate. Only one of them spoke to me, her name was Susan Henderson. She was straightforward and looked me in the eye when she asked me sensible questions. At that time she was a trainee nurse with one of the partners and had a deserved reputation for taking no nonsense from dentists.

When I did start work there our paths crossed regularly, it was a bit of a shoe box with 7 surgeries on 3 levels in converted houses and flats, and there was a communal common room. We worked together particularly during the intense GA sessions and I found her to be easy to work with as she had a great work ethic, knew what her role was and did her best to be good at her job.

Two years later I moved to another practice and soon afterwards she left to train to be a dental hygienist at Guys Hospital, on completion of her training we again worked together. Eventually we acknowledged that our feelings for each other went beyond the purely professional and I persuaded her to join me in my new ventures in Gloucestershire.

We celebrate 24 years of marriage this year and stillĀ  work together productively.

I am so, so pleased that I went for that interview – thank you Susan.

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