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Lead Dental Nurse Skills

18 May 2017

To make the lead dental nurse role a viable career option, it must be supported with formal training and skills assessment to assure that those dental nurses in lead roles have the ability, resources and support needed to make an effective and rewarding contribution to the team. This training must build their:
• Confidence 
• Knowledge of how to use best practice techniques for leading and developing teams of dental nurses
• Leadership and management skills, so that they can excel in their role and realise benefits for patients, employers and colleagues. 

Leadership and management skills for lead dental nurses 
Every qualified dental nurse will have demonstrated that they have the skills and knowledge required to work effectively as part of a dental team. The role of the lead dental nurse is to ensure that each qualified nurse is clear about how those responsibilities are interpreted by their employer and how they are required to manage their time and resources, so that they can contribute to the professionalism of the team. For student dental nurses, the lead dental nurse’s role will be to ensure the practice provides a suitable environment to support their learning and development. 

The lead nurse requires leadership and management skills to ensure their team of nurses know how to place   patients' interests first, take responsibility for their work and observe the principles of professionalism set out in Standards for the Dental Team (2013). This requires a range of personal and communication skills so that they can provide valuable support and guidance to their team of dental nurses. Lead nurses must be fully aware of how their employers define their role, and the level of authority the role carries, so that they meet the expectations and can fulfil the role effectively, without overstepping the employer’s expectations or the GDC Scope of Practice requirements. The lead nurse’s management and leadership role will include work allocation to the team and ensuring that every team member has meaningful work that enables them to continuously develop their skills and contribute to the practice’s overall patient care objectives. 

Since the dental workplace is demanding and requires professionalism, having the skills to make appropriate decisions on a day-to-day basis is essential for the team leader, who must ensure that their teams are energised and motivated. In addition, problem solving and decision making skills are needed – lead nurses must be able to assess the quality of information available to them when decision making. 

Increasing demands placed up on Registered Providers and Registered Managers to meet ever more complex regulatory requirements are the driving force of the need to appoint team leads. In large organisations, responsibility for the work carried out is devolved through a complex management structure so that strategic leaders can be confident that the requirements are met for the success of the business. 

Small dental practices have not needed this type of complex management structure until now. To maintain the essential principles of quality management, every team member needs to be committed to meeting quality principles. This means that each person needs to be involved in the development and maintenance of internal quality standards. The best way to ensure this happens routinely is through the use of Quality Circle processes; this is where small work teams meet regularly to review events and implement processes to enable them to learn from experience. Work events are then compared to good practice standards and an assessment is made of the extent to which current working practices are fit for purpose. The lead dental nurse should oversee this process and ensure that every dental nurse is included and involved in the process.

There is a significant leap between being an excellent dental nurse with superb clinical skills and being a lead dental nurse with responsibility for overseeing the work of other dental nurses. The lead dental nurse needs to set standards and provide feedback to colleagues on their performance. Success in the lead role depends on:
• Role clarity 
• Support from practice management 
• Leadership and management skills

With all of the above in place, the post holder is more likely to have the confidence the role requires. If the lead nurse lacks confidence they will lack credibility and will have to deal with resistance or confrontation, which will ultimately undermine their ability to achieve their role's objectives.

The key skills for success can be developed through a six-week Introduction to lead dental nursing skills course. This is a taught blended learning course, with one-to-one live tutorials, to cover a range of practical learning activities.

The introductory course can be followed by an additional nine months of study toward the Certificate in Team Leading Skills for Dental Nurses. See http://www.glenys-bridges.co.uk/course.aspx?id=10178. 

This course is quality assured by Innovate Awarding and covers each of the four domains of dental education, to demonstrate the role of the lead nurse in maintaining the highest standards of well-led dental care, which are inclusive and enable each dental nurse to meet their full potential within the team.


Practice Management Competency 2 day course - Excellent course


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