Handling your frustrations as a clinician and ending the day on a high note

Every now and then practices run into murky water with the clinician being dissatisfied with the dental nurse during clinic.

Usually it is the case that the clinician does not want to upset their nurse by informing them at the time about a dissatisfaction. Instead they hold it in. This either results in the nurse being unhappy with the clinician as they are ‘moody’, ‘distant’ or ‘hard to get on with’. Or the clinician tries their best to hold it in, finally snapping after a period of time, be it a day, a week or a month later. Lastly the clinician may go to the lead nurse or manager to vent their frustrations for them to then handle with the nurse.

When any of this happens it is not great for either party and long term problems start to brew.

My advice is this:

If as a clinician you are unhappy you need to be pointing things out as they happen. Dental nurses do not like to get it wrong, whether it is a set up or retraction technique. Big or small we always want to get it right and support the clinician we are working with effectively throughout the day.

For an emotionally mature dental nurse a quick point in the right direction will not phase them. If they are less experienced and not used to feedback and therefore do react by becoming emotional, you may need further support when communicating. However using the system of ‘pointing things out as you go’ tends to cause less emotion anyway.

If, in a worst case scenario, a nurse was to react by banging doors and being unpleasant then you do need to go to the PM as soon as possible to have this dealt with. This situation I can assure you is a rare one but seems to be the one clinicians fear and the reason why they do not feedback as they go.

My tips are-

  1. For set ups always check the set up before you call the patient in, often things go wrong because the clinician has called the patient in without the nurse being ready.
  2. If you are with a patient and unhappy with a set up then you must say in front of them “Laura thanks for setting up X, can you please prepare Y for me instead?” This is a really nice way of asking for what you require in front of a patient. Make sure your tone of voice is jovial, then ensure you say thank you and are making eye contact if possible with the nurse.
  3. At the end when the patient leaves the room you can then provide more detailed feedback to the nurse as to why you don’t want X for that procedure you will only ever use Y.
  4. I would advise that clinicians do keep a daily log on dissatisfactions, such as poor stock control, leaving you unsupported, poor techniques etc. This way repeated problems can be dealt with by the manager as this then falls into capability management rather than a one off slip up. (You also need to note down the great things they do which I discuss shortly.)

Is it not advisable to say nothing at all, all day, and then turn to the lead / PM with a list of problems. Nurses should have heard the feedback direct from you and then if persisting concerns occur they can be addressed. It is quite hurtful to a dental nurse to be pulled up by their lead or PM to discuss concerns the clinician had with them that day or the day before. The standard question upon hearing this is “Why didn’t he/she tell me? Why am I hearing this from you?”. This does not support the working relationship in anyway and causes further breakdown.

Ending the day on a high –

Clinicians are usually great at saying ‘Thank You’ to their nurse at the end of the day. Whenever I ask the nodding of heads as a confirmation is always strong. It’s a ritual, part of your scripts to say thanks. You would never leave without saying it. I understand that but you can make it much more meaningful.

The best thing that you can do throughout the day is take notes about the excellent way your nurse has supported you.

There will be many things throughout the day, just note a couple.

Then at the end of the day instead of just saying ‘thanks’ you can say:

Laura, today was great [and then give examples as above] great retraction with the mirror for the patient with the really strong tongue. Thanks so much, I’ll see you tomorrow, have a lovely evening”.

This will leave your nurse feeling great. And then going forward if you do need to point something out they won’t be offended as they know you look for the good in them too.

Lastly if you have had a day where you have had to provide feedback and it has been uncomfortable to you then the day is still ending on a high.








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