Dental Officers in the Royal Army Dental Corps provide dental care to soldiers both in the UK and when they are deployed all over the world. In this article Major Fiona Cunningham discusses how you could establish a career with the RADC.
Royal Army Dental Officer
I joined the Army in 2009 after qualifying from the University of Sheffield. I did my foundation training in a military dental practice before undergoing officer training at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst.
I was posted to a base in Germany, where I provided dental care for soldiers and their families. I took part in training exercises there, and in Kenya, Cyprus and the Netherlands. Later on I was deployed to Afghanistan, where I worked in Camp Bastion and in Kandahar Province.
As an officer in the RADC, you’ve effectively got two jobs. You’re a dentist, working either on a military base or on deployment, and you’re an Army officer. This means you command a dental team made up of non-commissioned officers and civilians.
When you’re taking part in an exercise or deployed to a remote location you’re often working in quite spartan conditions with very basic kit. This can be very challenging, but it’s also fantastically rewarding, and the kind of experience you’d just never get in civilian life.
Military life is very rich; sport is popular, and RADC officers take part in everything from swimming to triathlon to tennis. And there’s a big social dimension – this could mean helping to run entertainment in the officers’ mess, or leading a team of soldiers on a Nordic skiing expedition.
Dental officers take the Professionally Qualified Officers’ Commissioning Course at Sandhurst, which lasts ten weeks. Although you’re unlikely ever to find yourself commanding soldiers in combat, it’s important that you understand the Army, its culture and its history, and how to behave in a hostile environment. Everyone in the Army is a soldier first, so you’re taught outdoor survival, physical training and ‘drill’ – that’s marching. You also take part in tactical exercises, which includes weapons handling and firing. A lot of time is spent in the classroom, learning about global security, leadership psychology, and the history of warfare.
At the end of the course you take part in a passing out parade, where you march off the square, accompanied by a military band and led by an officer on horseback.
So many – the travel, the sport, the adventurous training. From a clinical perspective, you’re working with fewer constraints on time and budget, so you have the freedom to give your patients the very best standard of care.
The nature of military life means a new posting every 2–3 years, and going where you’re sent.
Your initial commitment is four years from your first day at Sandhurst, but if you choose you could spend your whole professional career with the Army.
The RADC Reserve employs dental officers on a part-time basis. You’ll join a unit near where you live, and train during some evenings and weekends. Reserve service is designed to fit around your other commitments, so you get all the benefits of military life and a civilian career . We offer a joining incentive of up to £2,300 and you will be paid for your time with your unit and for every 10 days you spend in training, you’ll get one day of paid holiday.
There’s plenty of training and development available to RADC officers, and you certainly won’t be at a disadvantage if you decide to leave the Army. Your MJDF will be paid for, and most dental officers are GDPs.
As you move through the ranks you could find yourself running a dental centre – or a group of them when you become more senior. You could also become a foundation trainer or an enhanced practitioner in a given discipline. Then there are the opportunities that the military can offer you – like commanding a field hospital on operations.
The starting salary for a post-foundation training dental officer after passing out from Sandhurst is £69,900. It increases every year, and when you’re promoted. Army officers also have access to subsidised food and housing.
If you’re a dental student and you want to join the Army when you qualify, there’s a £10,000-a-year bursary available for your final three years of dental school, plus a £45,000 payment after your Army training at Sandhurst.
For more information and to apply go to: army.mod.uk/medical-services/dental.aspx
Or contact the Specialist Recruiting Team:
The Army website has plenty of information about careers in the RADC. Our social media channels are also checked regularly and we welcome questions from interested dentists or dental students.