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Downstairs — Downstairs — It's not every day you meet a metal worker in a crispy white lab coat. But you do at the Department of Odontology.
The long underground corridors that lead from the Maersk Tower to the School of Dentistry at the Panum Institute remind you of Lars von Trier’s Danish tv series ‘The Kingdom’.
But the uncomfortable associations disappear when you arrive at the workshop where precision engineer Jesper Nilsson hangs out. A pixelated printout of a group of yellow Minions in blue boiler suits at the door indicates that we have found the good cheer of the technical department.
Precision engineer Jesper Nilsson
41 years old. Has worked for the Technical Department at the Department of Odontology for two years. Is a trained machinist (industrial technician) from Risø and has worked in different places in the pharmaceutical industry.
Lives in Stenløse with his family. Gets up every day at 5:00 and swims between 6 and 7, so he can avoid the morning traffic.
Jesper Nilsson is one big smile. He shows us the workshop with gusto. One of the machines gets a pat. The site has all the interior that you would expect. Lathes, cutters, tool walls, pictures of women.
But there are also neat arrangements of vintage viewing aids and a remarkable amount of knick-knacks; the coffee room’s candle holders, and the artificial ferns hanging from the ceiling, all give testimony to a team that makes an effort to decorate.
“Well, we really work well together,” says Jesper. “Both within this department and with all the people upstairs.”
In fact, the workshop is often empty, Jesper explains, as the technicians have three daily inspection rounds and many planned and emergency service tasks in the department during the course of the day. The assignments vary. Today one of his colleagues is on an errand to bring back some jaws of a pig for the teaching of maxillofacial surgery.
It is the best job I have ever had. And it will be the last
“The day starts with the first round before the staff turn up for work, where we go through the different clinics to check and see if everything is as it should be. If a water pipe is broken, for example, we need time to react before students’ and patients show up at 8:15,” says Jesper.
Between inspections it is very unpredictable what the day has to offer, says Jesper, and this is why this job is his best ever. And his last, he says:
“One moment we will be standing repairing a large industrial washing machine. The next moment someone who is teaching brace dentists needs a precision laser welding of palate equipment. There is huge variation from forging to precision engineering,” says Jesper.
“One of my colleagues put on a pedometer for a day. It showed 28,000 steps at the end of the working day,” says Jesper Nilsson. Anyone who struggles to hit the recommended daily 10,000 steps know what this means.
Often dental students have breakdowns on their dental chairs or need help with setting up the instruments, says Jesper, who always has several phones on him. In the course of a working day, they will often vibrate in his trouser pocket or the front pocket of his lab coat, because someone in the clinic needs urgent assistance.
I have also been called up, where a patient is in the dental chair who has dentophobia.
Jesper has a lab coat on. It’s not every day you meet a metal worker in crispy white lab coat. You could say that Jesper’s working life is upstairs and downstairs. In the basement, you get oil under your nails and talk workshop jargon with the lads, Jesper says:
“But we don’t go rushing up to the department in the middle of a joke. We respect that there are patients coming in, and we always assess the situation. We can’t go up there with dirt on us either, as it’s sterile, so you have to move around in a way that fits the working environment,” says Jesper.
And in this environment they meet many unforeseen – and not just technical – glitches along the way:
I have also been called up, where there is a patient in the chair who has dentophobia. You need to think fast – and make a quick emergency repair, so the clinicians can quickly move on and the patient can relax again. Then you have to do the actual repair work at another time,” says Jesper, who says that he feels that the helpfulness goes both ways:
“I never see grumpy faces up in the department. Not even if I need help from a clinical assistant for a project. People volunteer right away, and this is what characterises a good workplace,” I think.
The photographer has to keep reminding Jesper not to smile –and it is not easy.