Profile on Laura Yates
The caricature of a scientist might be of a boffin in a long, white coat working alone in a dusty old laboratory. Well, the white coat might be right, but dentisan’s technical team present a very different picture. Dental Nursing talks to Laura Yates, Research and Development Chemist at dentisan, about her passion for decontamination and what it’s like to be an integral part of a real scientific team.
Did you always want to be a scientist?
I was always really interested in science at school and had plans to do A levels in Chemistry, Biology and Maths. However, at the time a vacancy arose at Quadralene, the parent company of dentisan, and it seemed like too good an opportunity to miss, so I took the job.
The company supported me through further education, and ultimately I achieved my BSc in Applied Chemistry through a day-release scheme, which involved one day and two evenings per week. There was a lot of commitment on my part and a lot of commitment from dentisan, too.
You’re a Research and Development Chemist. What does your job actually involve?
Day to day it’s very broad and I love the variety. At dentisan the team spends a lot of time doing bench research to develop and test products, depending on their intended purpose. Regulatory procedures are an important part of the dental environment and we spend a lot of time on product classification work, health and safety, and producing data sheets and label text that meets regulatory requirements. Developing manufacturing methods that ensure consistent quality as well as overall quality control is also a huge area for us and we continually test and re-test to verify the efficacy of all dentisan’s products.
Where does the initial idea for developing a product come from? Is it market driven or based on your scientific knowledge of what’s happening in other healthcare sectors?
The ideas come from all directions. Some products are initially commercial concepts, others are driven by the technical department because we can see a use for a technology or can see that a product is being used in a wider healthcare environment and would make an easy and useful transition across to dental.
So your work isn’t all about mixing chemicals?
No. We get involved in the whole lifecycle of the product. We conceive the idea, develop the product, research it and test it – the whole process from concept to commercial production is part of our remit. We also offer customer support once products are in the market as well. The variety is what makes it so fascinating!
What tests do products undergo during development?
It depends on the product. Certainly for the medical devices the tests are rigorous. For the CE-marked products and particularly for the Class 2-marked products we have to gather a lot of evidence to support all our claims. It really depends what we want to put on the label and most projects start from this standpoint. It’s impossible to write the label text at the end of the process because if a claim is to be made on the label then we need to have evidence to support it. Depending on the claim, a simple test or a series of tests spanning several months might be required, all of which needs to be considered before the project begins.
You’re a member of The Royal Society of Chemistry. Can you tell us a little more about what this means?
The RSC is the UK’s professional body for chemical scientists which exists to advance excellence in the chemical sciences. Through the RSC I became a Chartered Chemist and Chartered Scientist. This means that in my working profession I’ve reached a certain standard and provided evidence that I can work to that standard. Chartered status is not necessarily academic, it’s more about my working life – actually putting into practice the skills that I have learned and need to do my job.
Was there a test for getting to a Chartered status?
There are different categories of membership for the Royal Society of Chemistry. Once you’ve graduated for three years you can become a Member, then once you have a certain amount of experience you can apply for Chartered status. The route I took was to apply for a two-year Personal Development Programme, which includes working towards achieving 12 attributes. At the end of the two years, a report and portfolio of evidence is submitted and scrutinised by one of the boards at the Royal Society of Chemistry.
Does your RSC involvement have any relevance in terms of your day job?
With over 54,000 members worldwide and an international publishing business, the RSC brings together industry and academia, promoting collaboration and innovation. Being part of this organisation gives us access to conferences and events, interest groups and experts in other fields of the chemical sciences.
Education is clearly dear to your heart because you’ve been enormously self-motivated to achieve your qualifications. Do you think the level of education for dental nurses surrounding decontamination and infection prevention is good enough?
The GDC recommends that dental nurses do five hours’ Core CDP in decontamination, but that’s only for every five-year cycle. I’m interested in infection control, so I don’t think that’s much at all. Obviously, dentisan provides a variety of different courses, delivered in different ways – but I don’t think there’s a lot of onus from practice owners for dental nurses to have that education, even though it’s very valuable.
The dentisan decontamination course covers everything from the theory to the practice of decontamination. I would imagine the approach of understanding the why of what you’re doing is very beneficial to the learning process.
I couldn’t agree more. We’re trying to teach a basic understanding of what’s causing the problems, what is contamination, where’s it coming from, etc. We don’t want dental nurses to do things just because they’ve been told to do it that way; we want people to follow the guidance but also understand why. As a technical person, I always want to understand the ‘why’ for everything!
Are there any areas of infection control that are applied in healthcare environments that you think could be used in dentistry?
Most of the areas have already been incorporated. Hand hygiene was a big thing at one time, but that’s now been integrated into HTM 01-05. Last year HTM 01-01 was revised, establishing a moving towards a residue limit for proteins that goes beyond swabbing. Now this has been established in healthcare, I imagine that the next version of HTM 01-05 might start to align itself with this, as experience tells us that compliance that gets absorbed into acute medical care will eventually work its way into dental guidance. Whatever happens, dental nurses can be sure that we are keeping ahead of the game to supply products that fully comply with all the relevant regulations.
To book your place on a dentisan Decontamination course, visit (URL)