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Could your practice improve its staff support measures?
Since the first reports from CQC inspectors presented an overview of the dental profession compliance, themed areas of good practice have been recognised as being in need of improvement.
One area highlighted as being in need of improvement in many of the practices inspected, is the Human Resources provision – in particular staff support measures. Guidance for making the required improvements can be found in Regulation 18(2)(a) of the Fundamental Standards, where the regulations clearly set out the expectation that:
“Practices provide appropriate support, training, professional development, supervision and appraisal as is necessary enable them to carry out the duties they are employed to perform”.
Dental practices are small businesses without the luxury of a personnel department employing dedicated HR professionals; tasked with ensuring that staff welfare takes its rightful place in practice operations. It falls upon the practice manager to develop the team and to create a healthy work culture. A culture that leads to healthy employees, with the desire to provide consistently high quality, patient focused care. This sort of work place environment is the product of well-led services in which the management recognises the need to provide bespoke on-going support for each team member, implements the components of staff support and acknowledges how demanding working with patients can be.
The components of staff support
Personal and professional Development
Staff support should assist individuals to recognise stressful workplace situations and their responses to that stress. Management should aim to maintain support structures and training programmes, which ensure that individuals are valued and encouraged to take pride in their on-going personal and professional development.
New employees should be provided with induction training to maximise their contribution to the practice as quickly as possible, and to facilitate a sense of belonging. An appropriate induction programme should be provided for each new staff member.
Managers must ensure that workload of the teams can accommodate an effective induction for all new members of staff, whatever their role or discipline, an induction process should begin at the point of their appointment and include an introduction to the practice’s vision, philosophy, roles, responsibilities and should provide an introduction to each team member, plus providing information on immediate health and safety issues.
All staff, regardless of their role, should be involved in an annual performance review process. It is advisable that the practice manager undertakes any necessary training to enable the instigation of performance reviews. 360 degree appraisals have been introduced in the medical sector, linked to the Revalidation processes, it is logical to assume that the dental sector will follow along this pathway in the not too distant future. The performance review aims to provide opportunities to agree Personal and Professional Development Plans for each team member.
Mentoring is formal process of professional support to enable dental professionals to cascade knowledge and competence to junior colleagues. Ideally all staff should have access to mentoring, and all mentors should have access to supervision. Informal support between members of staff who have built a supportive relationship is usually available. Although this is better that nothing, formally agreed, consistent and managed mentoring is far more likely to ensure new and existing staff are equipped to meet agreed best practice standards. Practices need to provide both informal and formal support. High quality relationships between team members are important for high standards of patient care and good communication skills are essential for effective teamwork.
No matter how effective the team’s interpersonal skills are they can always be improved, as can their self-awareness. When recognition of the importance of continuous development is a pre-requisite of employment, practices can be sure that the team will be committed to its staff support and development measures.
Glenys Bridges – QCS Expert Dental Contributor