Part 4 – Top tips for recruiting apprentices, qualified Dental Nurses and retaining your Dental Nurses

Part 4

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 discussed the lack of career progression and the different roles that dental nurses can do for you. In this blog, I am going to cover regulation responsibility and workload expectation.

Regulation Responsibility 

Since the CQC was formed in 2009 it has created one of the biggest changes in the industry.

In the early days, practice managers took on a larger percentage of getting everything ready for inspection alongside the owners. However, as confidence and support have grown this responsibility is being delegated more and more to dental nurses.

The most important part related to retention is the ownership of regulation and making sure that the dental nurse team are supported in their tasks. Some days they are flat out providing nursing care and still expected to deliver logs and audits whilst keeping up with the pressure of proficient note taking, effective chaperoning and looking after the patient.

Dental nurses tend to be very loyal and they normally act like a pressure cooker, which after time builds and builds before it explodes. This is a real problem and one that we have seen many times which leads to good nurses leaving. The reason why this happens is those good nurses tend to be piled up with this work and the nurses that don’t pull their weight get away with not being a team player in this area. This situation is a real catalyst and you must deal with it. So what do you need to do so that your nurses do not get overwhelmed and leave you?

  1. You must make sure that the nurses have a job description, listing any areas of CQC responsibility they have. Any audits and logs should be in their job descriptions.
  2. Make sure that you have invested in a suitable regulation support company. This is vital for supporting updates, providing easy frameworks to use and having a team that can resolve and nurture the nurses when they are not sure on the interpretation of the policy.
  3. The nurses responsible for carrying out specific audits and then doing quality assurance to resolve and action concerns require training to do these roles. Make sure they are given the time to attend courses and watch webinars. This is vital to the success of carrying out audits.
  4. The workload must be evenly spread especially in tasks that affect everyone in areas such as decontamination. Every task must be set up as a system and all the nurses must sign off on these systems. This confirms what is expected of them. If they do not do what is expected a practice manager must deal with what is not being done immediately following HR procedures.
  5. An important decision is what you want your nurses to do in surgery. If you are expecting contemporaneous notes, high-end patient experience and chaperoning from nurses then they cannot be multi-tasking and then be expected to be out of the surgery doing sterilisation in the decontamination room. A solution is to have a decontamination nurse which then frees up the in-surgery nurses to carry out their role in full. Another solution is to diary zone specific time blocks in your appointment books to allow nurses to undertake decontamination tasks. This diary can then be filled with treatment planning, clinical calls and referrals.
  6. Create a positive practice culture so that if any of the nurses are not following regulations this is not ignored by any team member. The team are then encouraged to provide specific verbal evidence in order that HR pathways can be followed to support the management team in dealing with such problems.
  7. You must give the right amount of time to any team member that has taken on specific CQC regulation tasks. The recommended time spent on CQC in a practice per week is one 8 hour day. This is an ongoing commitment you have to maintain – ensure the hours for this are scheduled weekly.
  8. Lastly, make sure you are praising good behaviours and acknowledging what is going right in the practice with regulation. There will always be areas to review and improve but concentrate on what is being achieved not just on areas that need resolving.

In the next blog, we will move onto the final areas – maintaining GDC regulation and change of ownership or leadership.


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