In recognition of International Women’s Day 2021, we have interviewed women working within our Trust. In this interview, we sat down with Kizzy Kukreja, Senior Dental Officer, and asked her about her experiences as a woman working within the NHS, how important it is to her that women support and champion one another, and what inspired her to co-host ‘Working Parents – flexible working beyond the pandemic’.
What is your role in the Trust?
I am a Senior Dentist within the community dental service. I am also a Staff Governor representing Medical, Dental and Nursing
What does your role involve day-to-day?
I provide dental treatment for children and adults with special needs, patients with dementia, phobic adults and children and treatment under sedation and general anaesthetic when needed. I also carry our domiciliary dental visits to patient’s homes or care homes.
Was there a women, or women, who inspired you to want to work for the NHS?
There wasn’t a women in the NHS, but the woman I give credit to, for giving me the drive to work hard is my mum. She came to UK on her own and forged her own career whilst bringing up 4 children by herself without any support. She always worked hard and was a great role model to always go above and beyond and achieve your best.
What has been your most proud moment working for the Trust?
I am always proud when I have treated patients in a relaxed and calm environment. I recently had a patient with dementia, her sister was so grateful for the treatment we had provided, she said that my calm manner had helped the whole family cope with the treatment. Compliments from patients and their family are always my proudest moment.
Have you faced any challenges as a woman as your career within the NHS has progressed?
My biggest challenge is the fact that I am a single parent and trying to juggle my full time job with being a full time parent. That sacrifices have had to be made and that personal circumstances are not taken into account.
What challenges do you feel women working the NHS still face today?
They face many challenges. I have already mentioned childcare, but other caring responsibilities force us to take time off work, and have to juggle our work/life balance. We have to choose between our career and other personal issues including health. There is also a culture of not wanting to talk about how being a woman affects our working life.
What inspired you to co-host ‘Working parents – flexible working beyond the pandemic’ as part of International Women’s Day 2021?
Earlier this year, Gingerbread (a charity that supports single parent families) published a report revealing that UK workplaces are missing out on valuable workplace skills due to barriers which limit opportunities for single parents to progress in their jobs.
When Covid struck and childcare disappeared in March 2020 I felt helpless.
As a dental service we became the only emergency service open in the whole of Gloucestershire, which meant I could not work from home, and as a lead dentist I had to lead a team seeing emergency dental patients in clinic. The Trust were super helpful finding a nursery for my son, but unfortunately the nursery did not cover all of my childcare needs, which meant I was initially taking unpaid leave, then when April started I had to take annual leave. This used a third of my annual leave allowance. There was never another option. I am tired and I have missed out on lots of quality time with my son. Lessons have to be learnt from the pandemic, conversations had and everyone should be able to strike the balance between having a contented professional life and a happy personal life no matter your circumstance.
How important to you is it that women support and champion one another in the workplace?
Hugely. We need to be allies for one another, to show each other respect and build each other up.
If you could go back in time, is there any advice that you would give to yourself when you first started working for the NHS?
Don’t be afraid to ask. If you don’t ask you don’t get and if you don’t get, don’t give up, keep fighting. It is far too easy in the NHS to just say “it has always been that way” – but we as individuals can be that change.