Paula Darkin tells us more about her new role at the Trust and explains why the mouth really does matter
I’m really excited to be joining Northumbria as the mouthcare lead dental nurse and trainer at such a busy time for the NHS.
I’ll be promoting mouthcare right across the organisation and trying to help educate staff and patients about the importance of oral health, especially for people needing to stay in hospital for more than 24 hours.
This is a vital issue that can have an impact on things like hydration, nutrition and the overall health of our patients.
The mouth is something that can often be overlooked and patients who are poorly can come into hospital with the equipment they need or more often lack the ability to look after themselves properly.
Mouthcare can sometimes be at the bottom of the list for healthcare providers, especially if patients are in for an operation on their leg for example.
Naturally, in this instance staff might not immediately think of mouthcare but things like medication can also have side effects that impact on the mouth. It can be a real problem for patients that causes great discomfort especially for older people.
I’ve got more than 34 years’ experience in dentistry and most recently delivered the ‘mouth matters’ programme in Northumberland care homes.
I’ve found that even basic things can have a big impact and the thing I enjoy the most is getting to meet such a wide variety of people across all the different hospitals.
I always try to put a bit of fun into the role to cheer up staff and patients. Because I have so many tooth themed things like pens, scrubs and lanyards they always see me coming. Of course, it’s a serious issue but I try to tackle it with humour.
I’ve already completed an internal audit and I’m currently forming a focus group with a range of different staff from across the wards.
Over the coming months I’ll be doing loads of one to one teaching with staff across the organisation to raise awareness, provide training and get everyone thinking about the mouth matters programme.
The biggest challenge is the scale and geography of the organisation but everyone has been so supportive and welcoming since I joined the trust. I’m based at Wansbeck Hospital but will be travelling right across Northumberland and North Tyneside.
My ambition is ultimately to support our staff with education and get the very best outcomes for patients – I’m hoping their smiles will be the big reward.