TWO decades in the same role have meant Pam Swain has seen many changes at the British Association of Dental Nurses.
Not least the organisation going from less than 1,000 members, to the largest dental care professionals group and a major force in the industry.
Fleetwood born and bred Pam is celebrating 20 years as the chief executive of the BADN – making her the longest-serving chief executive of a professional dental association.
Pam, a Soroptimist, started working for the ABDSA, as it was then, in August 1992, when the association head office was a small room above a bank in Fleetwood.
Now the BADN is based in Bourne Road, Thornton.
Pam can still recall the early years of her career: “There was one desk which I shared with the two part-time staff, a phone on the wall, a very primitive word editor and a manual typewriter.
“We only had a few hundred members, which is just as well, because we sent out mailings by hand - folding, stuffing and licking stamps – after we’d typed out the envelopes.
“But this was already a huge advance in itself – until the late 80s, the association, the exam board and the voluntary register had all been run out of the same office by two ladies with three different coloured pens - blue for the association, red for the exam board, green for the register – and a box of index cards!”
She had left home at 18 to be an au pair in Vienna, then worked in Brussels, for Hilton International and NATO, then in investment banking at the Bank of Bermuda, before studying holistic therapy in the US.
She returned to the UK in 1991 not intending to stay, but was offered the job at what was then called ABDSA.
She said: “I enjoy meeting dental nurses from across the UK and around the world – one of the facets I enjoy the most is organising the national dental nursing conference, which will be held in Blackpool this year in the Hilton.”
Paula Sleight, who joined the council earlier in 1992, and who was president 1995-1997, said: “Pam’s appointment made a huge difference to the association. She dragged us, somewhat belatedly, into the 20th century and put the association on to a much more business-like footing, introducing a computer system, functional equipment like a franking machine and a proper telephone system, a proper membership benefits scheme.
“She re-organised council meetings so they ran much more efficiently and revamped the journal into the professional publication it is today.
“Until then, we’d had more in common with the WI or the Mothers’ Union than a professional association but Pam’s arrival changed all that.
“The fact she wasn’t a dental nurse herself and had no dental baggage meant she wasn’t intimidated by dentists or by the larger institutions like the BDA and the GDC, and was prepared to say and do whatever necessary to represent dental nurses and to get their views across.”