Part III: I’m Sorry but I Did Not Get Qualified So That I Can Make Coffee for You

Dental Revelations Blog-

It is (finally!) time for the final part of the series of posts. This time it is of course the nurse’s role in the dental practice which probably is the most difficult one. Here’s why.

Experience Brings Wisdom

The dentist may know dentistry but he does not necessarily have any people skills. Or respect for others. Or ability to feel empathy. This kind of dentist is not fun to work with. Not even close to pleasant.

The nurse needs to put up with the dentist’s whimsy ways and misuse of a power. Some nurses might tolerate this for a long time but some do find another job quite quickly. Especially those who are experienced ones.

But having said that, sometimes experienced nurses are allocated purposely to assist difficult dentists. To kind of bring them in the line. And oh boy if the dentist resists the change. He will have miserable time as the nurse tells him off about everything. The dentist’s whining is quickly silenced by the quick-witted nurse who do not tolerate any nonsense.

So the wisest dentists will comply very quickly as it is crucial for the congenial atmosphere of the work place. Plus the wisest dentists understand that the experienced nurses are worth their weight in gold no matter how they seem to disrespect the outdated hierarchical structure of dental practice.

Experience Brings Knowledge

In the Part I of this series of posts I wrote that sometimes the hygienists can have better knowledge on how to treat the gum disease. It is the same with the nurses – especially the nurses with 20+ years of experience. They have stared at people’s mouths for such a long time that they know a cavity when they see one. They can tell if the soft tissues look suspicious or if the filling has sharp edges that would bother the patient’s tongue.

If the dentist is lucky to have this kind of nurse assisting him he should be grateful to have extra pair of eyes looking out for problems in the patient’s mouth. But too many let their ego come in the way of team work (please read Part II for more on this subject). They ignore the fact that the nurse is looking at the mouth from another angle and can see things that are on dentist’s blind side.

Nurse Aka the Barista

One thing I have never understood is that why is it the nurse’s duty to make a cup of coffee/tea for the dentist? Please tell me one good reason why the person behind the title nurse should be considered as a servant? If anything, it should be the dentist making the coffee for the nurses as once they are finished with the patient they can enjoy their lunch in peace whilst the nurse disinfects the surgery’s surfaces and deals with the sterilisation of the instruments.

Another thing I have never understood – which I have already written about on my second post – is the fact that the patients bring gifts to the dentists but not to the nurse. Wine, chocolate, sweets, books you name it. I guess they don’t realise that dentist would not be able to do any treatment without the nurse (well without compromising good quality of treatment).

About Qualification Requirements

You may not need any qualifications to start as a trainee dental nurse.

This is a quote from National Careers Service’s website. It amazes me that in the UK you are still able to begin working as a dental nurse trainee without any qualifications and train yourself on the job. When I began working in the UK over a decade ago the dental nurse did not need to be qualified. Anyone could work as a dental nurse. Any random gal from the street. Seriously.

Somebody who has no clue about cross infection control or how to use all the equipment and materials safely would seriously compromise the patient’s, the dentist’s and the nurse’s own health.

In my current country that I work in the trainee nurses need to have certain modules accomplished before they can work as a trainee nurse. In my opinion this is far better system.

Hard Work Does Not Pay Off

The amount of work the nurses do does not show in the salary. They are very poorly paid and are expected to work on their lunch breaks if the dentist runs late and they are even expected to open the surgery in the morning on their own time.

I will tell you about one of my workplaces I used to work at. In this rather big company the nurses working hours were from 9am to 5pm. This was the time they got paid for. The problem with these working hours were that the patient came in at 9am and the surgery needed to be opened prior to that. All the nurses and the dental hygienists know that if you open your surgery properly it will take at least 30 minutes. Who would want to work 30 minutes for free? No-one apart from the charity volunteers but dentistry is no charity.

This meant that the nurses came in around 8.45am to open the surgery and they cut corners where ever they could. The same happened in the afternoon when the last patient had left. Closing the surgery also should take around 30 minutes but it was often done in less than 15 minutes. Needless to say that something important is left undone.

Pay Enough to the One You Want to Keep

Now on this final chapter I will give an advice to all the dentists who have nurses as employees. It is an advice that will make your practice a success story.

If you think your nurse is doing magnificent job

  • pay her enough money for that. Even more than what would be current going rate of the nurse
  • be flexible and take her personal life into consideration. Show that you care if she struggles with the demands of bringing family life and work life together
  • give her gifts every once in a while. Perfume, chocolate, her favourite music… anything
  • make sure you apologise if you run late before the lunch break. Let her go for an extra break later to compensate the lost time
  • buy her a lunch every now and then – after all you make gazillion times more money
  • make sure you both work in an ergonomic position
  • respect her

These are the only ways to stop your nurse looking for another job. You see every nurse know eventually that there are dentist’s who do value them more. Believe me, I know many nurses who have been rewarded generously by their employer – they have been paid more than an average nurse, they have been taken on board to a course trip overseas (even to Mauritius!), they get extra time off…

You see the dental practice who’s supportive staff keeps on changing all the time is not giving a very good impression to the patients. And that alone can be a reason for them to change dentist.

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