Dental nursing a dying profession
THE EDITOR, Madam:
The Dental Auxiliary School, a training institution under the Ministry of Health, opened its doors in 1970. Its first batch of proud dental nurses graduated two years later. Their mandate: the oral health care of their target population children up to 18 years old.
They assiduously executed their task under the guidance/supervision of the principal dental surgeon and the very few dental surgeons in the Government service, who would sometimes visit the facilities.
In 1986-7, a visionary in the person of Dr Rosalie Warpeha, the then principal dental surgeon in the Ministry of Health, assigned additional administrative responsibilities to select dental nurses to collate the Dental Service Reports for submission to the Ministry of Health through the parish health departments.
This led to the creation of regional and parish/zone coordinators. These officers were given the added tasks of general supervision of the dental auxiliaries, ordering supplies and equipment and ensuring their continued functionality through regular request for maintenance.
Fast-forward to 2011. The Dental Auxiliary School had its programme removed to the University of Technology, one of the first training programmes being transferred from the Ministry of Health to the Ministry of Education.
This signalled the beginning of the end of the training of dental nurses in Jamaica, as persons who applied to pursue this course were encouraged to switch to other disciplines in the dental field.
Also taking place at this time was the training of the first batch of dental surgeons in Jamaica. This group graduated in 2015.
Dental nurses are being transferred to deep rural areas, unofficially in some instances, to facilitate the placement of dental surgeons. The line of communication is also breached in some cases, where dental assistants are asked to convey instructions from the dental surgeons to the dental nurses.
It is full time that these dedicated public servants who held the dental service together for almost a half of a century be shown some respect.