Dental assisting proves rewarding for Carmen

At the age of 27, Carmen Piko decided to move from hospitality into dental assisting. She’s never looked back.

What do you do when you find out you’re pregnant the day after you land your dream job?

Keep calm and carry on.

That’s exactly the predicament Carmen Piko found herself in when she scored a traineeship as a dental assistant.

“It was a huge surprise,” she says.

Carmen had previously worked her way up the hospitality ladder doing front of house, back of house, assistant management and shift supervising for 10 years.

At 27, she decided it was time for a career change.

“I felt like I’d done everything I could in hospitality,” she says. “I wanted something different and found dental assisting and thought I’d give it a go.”

Carmen applied for a dental assistant job in Mornington but unfortunately, she missed out on it to someone with a qualification and more experience.

That was when she decided to do a traineeship through Chisholm and get a formal qualification, a Certificate III in Dental Assisting, under her belt.

What’s so great about a traineeship is that you can combine work-based training in a dental practice and learn the theory required for the job through Chisholm.

Students have to be employed in a dental practice with a training contract prior to enrolment.

Carmen secured employment through Ava Dental and started working full-time, whilst completing her studies.

She managed to complete her traineeship, despite the surprise pregnancy news.

Not only that, Carmen excelled at Chisholm and was even nominated as Trainee of the Year at the 2023 Chisholm Education Awards for her stellar efforts.

“It was a busy time – there was a change of career, I was pregnant, working two jobs, and also had two children at home,” she says.

“The course was really easy and straightforward. I really enjoyed it.

“In particular, I enjoyed the practical side of it. My way of learning is getting in there and doing things – I’m really hands-on.”

Carmen says the assessments were easy to understand and her teacher was always available to help.

“The students all helped each other out too,” she says. “It was really good.”

After qualifying, Carmen decided to move to a clinic closer to home. She is now happily employed at Chelsea Dental Group.

Her typical day starts at 8am. Carmen arrives, organises the rooms, and checks over the dental instruments, which have already been sterilised by the sterilisation nurse at the practice.

Carmen then sets up a few trays to ensure the changeovers run smoothly between clients.

“It’s about being organised all day,” she says.

“I’m loving it here and I really enjoy coming to work every day.”

Carmen says for those considering a career as a dental assistant, you need strong interpersonal and organisational skills.

“Being good at talking to people and having a bubbly personality are important,” she says.

“People do get quite nervous about going to the dentist, but it’s your job as a dental assistant to make sure people are comfortable and able to get through their appointment without stressing.

“You need to be quick as well, so quick with changeovers, quick to organise everything for the dentist for the next procedure.”