Oral Health Therapist, Waitemata District Health Board and WM Dental
Bachelor of Health Science (Oral Health)
She discovered her passion for oral health in secondary school, says Kathleen Oneroa.
“As a school leaver I was interested in healthcare as a career. After observing a local dental clinic in my final year of school, I knew that a career in oral health was for me. I liked the diversity of the scope of practice, and I wanted to model the type of care I observed.”
Deciding where to study was easy, she says.
“AUT stood out to me because it offered students the chance to complete placements with a range of communities. I also liked that the first semester of the AUT degree covered general health science before students focused on their chosen discipline.”
An interprofessional approach to care
Being able to work with patients at AUT’s on-campus oral health clinic was one of the highlights of her studies, says Kathleen who received the 2017 New Zealand Dental Hygiene Award for displaying the best preventative treatment planning and implementation skills in AUT oral health clinics.
“What stood out most for me were the relationships I built with patients. I’ll never forget finishing my first treatment plan – my patient was so grateful to leave with a smile on his face and to have had a comfortable experience.”
She appreciates that AUT understands the concept of hauora and doesn’t isolate each health discipline.
“All health science students share first-semester papers and work alongside each other at the on-campus health clinic, AUT Integrated Health. This is a great way to create interprofessional health relationships. Consequently, AUT health science graduates are able look beyond their specialty and see one’s hauora to provide the best care.”
Offering expert care to patients of all ages
After graduating from AUT in 2017, Kathleen is now working as an oral health therapist for the Waitemata District Health Board.
“Part of my role is working within the Auckland Regional Dental Services (ARDS) where I work with children and their whānau to maintain good oral health through education, prevention and dental treatment. The other part of my role is providing oral health education and dental hygiene to patients of all ages at WM Dental.
“I enjoy building relationships with patients. I feel most fulfilled when I can build trust and create a happy environment for patients who have dental phobia.”
She constantly draws on the skills she developed throughout her studies, Kathleen says.
“As oral health students, we were immersed in different community projects to build networks, skills and experiences. I’m now using these skills with ARDS where I’m involved in a fluoride pilot programme to reduce health inequalities through the application of fluoride and oral health education in kōhanga reo and Pacific language nests. The transition from university to the workplace was very smooth for me.”