Dental nursing journey – nurse to SmileWisdom Director
From dental nurse to Founder and Director of SmileWisdom
Dental Careers – Finding your true career purpose.
The word multi-talented doesn’t quite cover it when it comes to SmileWisdom’s Founder & Education Director, Ewa. From the age of 4 she went to two schools in Poland – standard school and a music school. Normal school would run from 8am-3pm, as soon as that finished Ewa would walk straight to the music school and be there until around 8pm. She would end up qualifying as a violinist with a diploma in violin, piano and history of music but in fact go in a very different direction when it came to her career. ‘Apparently I had a talent but I really didn’t like it,’ she says. She found that she had to learn very quickly in her classes as there was no time for revision or homework. Evenings and weekends would often involve sports classes; probably the right time to mention that she’s also a qualified lifeguard and has 2 black belts in martial arts!
When it came to her high school years Ewa recalls, ‘It was quite intense to be honest, my high school exams were falling on the same days; I had a high school exam and a music exam, sometimes they were almost overlapping.’ It soon became apparent to Ewa that she didn’t really have an affinity with the arts, preferring science based subjects instead. She recalls, ‘I was one of the better students in the year, everyone was saying “you have a whole music career ahead of you” and all I was thinking was that I really don’t like it.’
All of her music school friends ended up of course becoming pianists and musicians but for Ewa it was a different story. In Poland you have to do at least 3 A levels so Ewa decided to do 5 (why not?!) including biology, physics, chemistry and maths. ‘I really wanted to do medicine. I always preferred biology. It was almost like I understood the subject straight away. It was more natural than music.’
When the university years came around she applied by doing 1-year entrance exams as A levels were not relevant to entry in Poland. Ewa wanted to do dentistry then and there but didn’t get a place as her entry exam score was not high enough to get into dentistry. There were 20 places in dentistry and 60 in medicine, in Poland it was easier to get into medicine; Ewa missed out on being one of the twenty by just two spots and so automatically was offered a place to study medicine.
She took the place on the understanding that if someone was to drop out of dentistry she could take their spot – no one ever did. Going on to finish her medical degree, Ewa went on to work as a hospital doctor in accident and emergency. She remembers, ‘There were times when I really didn’t like it and I realised I didn’t like what I was doing.’ Ewa never really felt a passion for medicine but found it was more of a curiosity, ‘I started to think I needed something more challenging and it was at times very boring as well.’
A change of country took Ewa to Beirut where she further developed her dental nursing career and after a short stint there she moved to the UK following the birth of her first child; working in a clinic in Mill Hill, London, as treatment coordinator due to her clinical background.
Her day-to-day involved patient co-ordination, patient treatment planning and discussing treatments with patients. Once she’d obtained her dental nursing diploma along with other courses relevant to management and customer service, Ewa became more involved in the surgical side of the practice and at the same time realised she enjoyed the business aspect of medicine. Her role there grew as she became manager, treatment coordinator and head dental nurse support all rolled into one.
After a little while she moved clinics and became practice manager at Smilepod’s first location in Covent Garden, London. This was when Ewa would first work with her now co-founder of SmileWisdom, Mike Hutter (Mike was the founder of Smilepod). While doing her dental training Ewa had been struck by how interesting and engaging the courses were with students from all different backgrounds and ages including dentists, doctors, nurses and people without any qualifications.
That’s when a lightbulb business idea happened and she thought, ‘Why can’t I run courses like that myself?’. Ewa worked 3 days a week at Smilepod and 2 days a week teaching a dental nursing diploma at Neasden Dental college, Presidency London College and London Waterloo Academy, gaining valuable insight into how teaching and course provision worked.
After around 3 years of this, in 2011, Ewa went on maternity leave with her second child. During her maternity leave she wrote her first diploma in dental nursing and her first accreditation application. She would also use the time to gain teaching diploma qualifications (because clearly, she had too much time on her hands!). Ewa decided not to go back to Smilepod, they already had a great team in place while she was away, and she discovered she wanted to put her focus into dental nurse training.
In the meantime, another opportunity presented itself in the form of Zimmer Dental and a role that involved bringing their products into the UK. A three stage interview, a business plan and some market research later Ewa found herself as Managing Director for their satellite corporate arm in the UK; working with dental implants, biomaterials and grafting materials. She remembers, ‘It was new, it was exciting. I took the role and it was very challenging.’ They gave her in-depth product and business training in California and set her up with an A-Z of how to run a business.
She recalls, ‘I felt passionate about going to work. I loved the combination of the sales, the medicine and the science.’ Her time at Zimmer was a great success with her team even winning an award and being flown to Las Vegas to celebrate! At the same time, she started to teach her implant classes to a small group of dental nurses at the weekend in the business centre conference room while also opening a dental practice in Finchley.
Ewa stayed in touch with Mike from Smilepod throughout her corporate journey as they frequently crossed paths in dental world. Mike took over the training side of Ewa’s Finchley clinic and all the courses she had written, with Ewa consulting as an education director and occasionally teaching.
After 3 years at Zimmer Ewa moved on to new pastures and found herself working at 3M Oral Care as an area manager, wanting to reduce her overtime and travel hours due to having two small children. This would prove an interesting role to have during a pandemic as she learnt a lot about PPE. In late 2021, Ewa decided to move on from the corporate world and go back to her teaching roots by joining Mike full time at SmileWisdom, following their acquisition by learndirect.
Ewa’s role is now purely educational, looking after the education for both SmileWisdom and learndirect including the programme, the teaching, the quality of teaching, quality assurance and writing new programmes and eCPD courses. The 760 students the faculty has now is a world away from the 3 student nurses Ewa used to teach on a Saturday way back in 2012. She says of her current role, ‘I really love it. It doesn’t feel like a job for the first time in my life! I’m focused on looking after the quality of the education and have a pretty big team of teachers, assessors and student support. I think Mike and I complement each other very well, he is very business orientated and knows how to grow a business and I am more technical detail-oriented. The British Dental Association asked us to lecture for them and that really shows they trust the quality of our lectures.’
As for the music, Ewa hasn’t played since her final diploma concert but what it clearly helped her with was the ability to multi-task like a pro. The question is, does she ever sleep?!
Are you interested in following Ewa’s footsteps? Click here to find out more about training as a dental nurse with SmileWisdom.