Dental nurses. A shortage or a consequence?

By Dr Dhru Shah
Friday November 20th 2020

For me, the dental nurse is one of the most important cogs in the wheel. Personally, if I had my way, I would like to consistently work with the same nurse. That team relationship and that dynamic is one of the most crucial in patient care.

Wherever I have worked, I have done all I can to serve and look after the dental nurse in my surgery as best as possible. Giving them time to carry out the tasks before and after a patient, giving them space to breathe, making sure they are ok and even making coffee for them.

Alas, the sad part is that many dental nurses don't last long in the practices I am in. Either they quit as they don't feel fulfilled, or they move on or they just find a new career.

Understandably, the pay grade in dental nursing is not very high but many still are hard-working people on the ground. They do it for the dedication, the pleasure they get from caring for another human being and for the pure joy of the job.

However when a practice, a principal, the dentist they work with or the corporate take that joy away then all that is left the long hours, the minimum breaks, the tiring long days, the thankless tasks, the long arduous hours of CPD, a high fee to an out of touch regulator - and very little pay. Then the job gets no fulfilment.

Dentistry needs a new kind of leadership generally but when it comes to nursing, it definitely needs a new kind of leadership. Not one where nurses are devalued, not one where they are hired to get on with the day job.

Instead, dental leaders and business owners need to invest in their growth, their education and enable them to develop in the same way that the other dental professionals are.

So many nurses are simply asked to get on with the daily tasks, to do the basic CPD so that they are compatible with the GDC and the CQC (in case they come knocking) and are left to do things.

I know of many practices that invest in all the toys (e.g. scanners) that cost thousands but don't want to invest and encourage their teams and nurses to use a learning resource.

Good leadership is about:
1. Spending the time to sit with your team, figure out what their goals are and enable them to grow to these
2. Give them an education resource that will enable them to grow into these goals
(Of course, they won't use something like Tubules when they are simply told to do compliance CPD and move on. That's why so many use other sources like Isopharm as it ticks the boxes and that's it.)
3. Use tools like the 360 feedback and the iPDP to help them grow

In any business, the biggest strength lies in developing the teams and engaging the teams.

People growth is a key factor in good leadership.

Currently, very few practices do this and then wonder why they have disjointed teams and why they have a high turnover of nurses.

The big picture consequence of this is a loss of so many nurses from the profession. To me this speaks volumes.

At Tubules we are more than CPD, we are here to help people grow. Dental practices that use Tubules find that their nurses engage in all our learning because these are teams where growth is valued.

They are our Tubules Tigers.

For dental nurses, whose practice owners will not pay for their dentinaltubules membership, we have a special rate of £28 a year for our entire premium membership. It's cheaper than most sources out there.

As for the others - they seem to box tick their way to some isolated pharm.


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