Part 2 – Top tips for recruiting apprentices, qualified Dental Nurses and retaining your Dental Nurses

Part 2

I have now spent 21 years in dentistry and I have never seen the industry so short of dental nurses. I keep being asked by clients what to do? Where to find them? How to retain them? This is not just a UK problem or a problem affecting rural areas. In my last blog I concentrated on giving you heaps of tips on apprentice nurses. In this blog, I am going to provide you with some hints and tips on retaining dental nurses in your practice.

Did you know the average lifecycle of a qualified nurse is now less than 2 years and this figure keeps reducing year on year and we need to address this. Why is this happening and why aren’t the nurses sticking with practices like they used to? The top reasons why nurses are leaving practices are:

1) Salary

2) Lack of career progression

3) Regulation responsibility – workload expectation

4) Maintaining GDC registration

5) New ownership – change of management

All of these factors are changing how nurses are feeling about spending years of their life in the profession, so what can you do?

Salary Banding

My first tip is you need to have salary banding in your practice. Salary banding has been around for years, in fact, my first job (working for Sainsbury’s) was on a banded salary. Everyone knew each others salary depending on their role and position because it was displayed for everyone to see. This stopped all the gossip. Every year the poster displaying the banding was changed to show pay increases (including management).

Salary banding needs to start with a base salary and then you work from there. That’s your starting point, my recommendation is you pay more than Aldi! You are looking at least paying £9.50 per hour for a qualified nurse but please look at your local area to clarify this. Salary needs to build from here based on additional qualifications that you are using in practice. The higher responsibilities such as CQC responsibility, leader positions/senior nurse, cross-trained fully on reception and a treatment coordinator need to be paid an additional amount anywhere up to £1 extra an hour for each additional role.

There are lots of additional skills that you also need to take into account including radiography, oral health education, sedation, implants, photography, impressions/scanning. This is not an exhaustive list. Now for these skills, you can pay up to 50p an hour for each of these as long as they are at a fully competent level and you are using them regularly in the practice.

You may do your calculations and decide that the salaries have to increase a lot and this may worry you. You do need to do two further things. The first is you must budget for your employed wages (between 18% to 22% of your current gross turnover, excluding employed hygienist/therapists). The second is that if you are already spending 22% and your nurses’ salary is low, and you are providing private dentistry then you may need to increase your prices so that you are able to make these adjustments. My last tip is that you need to work out what your salary budget is so that you can bespoke your practice’s salary banding.

I can tell you first hand that if you don’t start moving this way, nurses will leave and ultimately you will recruit nurses that are more expensive than the ones that have left. This is the reality and this is the top reason why nurses move to another practice is that they have an opportunity to renegotiate their wages. You have an opportunity to change that. It will also help you with recruitment.

Lastly in this blog, I want to talk to you about longevity increases. You have an opportunity to increase salary by an additional £1 per hour at 5 years service and then again at 10 years service. There is another option which is an increase in holiday to 5 weeks after 5 years service and 6 weeks after 10 years service. You may ask why would I do that, but then we go back to the lifecycle, if you want to retain the knowledge and experience that you have worked so hard to train in your business then you need to reward loyalty or the nurses with experience will leave to pastures new.

In part 3 I am going to provide some more tips on retention.

Thanks Michael

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