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The extended range of permitted duties for dental nurses provides exciting opportunities as well as challenges for practices and individuals. Some well lead practices have embraced these opportunities and have embedded extended dental nursing duties into their day-to-day work. In a diverse range of dental practices, extended dental nursing duties are now an integral part of their success. In each case, the practices’ leadership teams have facilitated the developing dental nurse role and this has enabled them to build a strong and highly motivated team of dental professionals.
New team roles can provide exciting opportunities
The extended duties model works well in other countries where high standards are embedded within their healthcare services. As growing numbers of dental professionals have become aware of the potential benefits of extending dental nursing duties, they are also aware of the importance of ensuring that standards of care are enhanced, rather than diminished by this new level of dental team involvement. To this end initiatives such the GDC’s Standards for Education, DCP registrations, revised Continuous Professional and Personal Development frameworks aim to ensure that as dental nurses extend their duties they also extended competences and management and supervision processes are in place to ensure that patient care standards are not compromised.
Delivering high standards of care
The GDC Standards for the Dental Team and the regulations of the Health and Social Care Act 2008 (Regulated Activates) Regulations 2014 (Part 3 Regulation 18) aims to ensure that providers deploy suitably qualified, competent and experienced staff to enable them to deliver safe, compassionate and well-led patient care.
In regards to the management of extended duties dental nursing, the regulations require that persons delivering regulated services have appropriate support, training, professional development, supervision and appraisals. To meet this regulation requires a rethink about the service provider’s leadership role. Where the provider is not ready to fully embrace their leadership role, the introduction of extended dental nursing duties will provide more worries than benefits. However, where leaders have the skills to allocate duties to competent team members and understand how to provide the required support, the benefits will soon be realised.
Progressing extended duties models must begin with leadership competence. Leadership is an ongoing process, so when measuring the quality of leadership it’s not helpful to isolate any one leadership activity. This is because leadership begins with a vision, which is translated into a practical steps to achieve specified goals. Nor can Leadership happen in isolation, and it is redundant unless it involves others. I see many leaders who consider that it’s easier to do everything themselves in order to maintain the standards they want. The truth is that these leaders work themselves into the ground and frequently their chronic tiredness presents the greatest threat to maintaining practice standards.
Matching your nurses’ commitment
With the historic accepted norms of dental team involvement, it will take time and effort to replace new working practices designed to underpin extended duties teamwork. The truth is that many dental nurses are investing their own time and money to gain recognised training and qualifications to enable them to undertake extended duties – a commendable commitment to their role and career development.
For their employers to make their nurse investment worthwhile they need step-up to the leadership role so that they can optimise the opportunities the commitment and enthusiasm of their dental nurses offer them.
Glenys Bridges – QCS Expert Dental Contributor