Raising standards

Last week, when sitting in a traffic jam, I watched a street cleaner tidying the grass verge and thought how blissful it would be to do such simple work. No doubt other people with demanding high-pressure careers will at times entertain such thoughts.

Although the desire for a simpler life may appeal for a fleeting moment, those of us working in professional roles in dental teams really want more than a simple job at the

practice. As committed dental professionals, we are career-minded people, committed to the ongoing development of our knowledge and skills.

As the dental profession expands to officially include new groups of dental care professionals so that a growing number of us can fulfil our new roles, it is vital to fully understand the meaning of our new status and how to rise to the challenges it brings.

The term ‘professional’ is used in many contexts with different connotations, such as that of ‘professional sportsman’. It is applied to dental professionals I believe where it defines someone required to possess a depth of knowledge derived from extensive study and formal training to meet a standard, set and controlled by a lead body (the GDC). In this sense, professionalism requires controls and an evaluation processes to admit new persons to the field, and scrutiny of the work done by members to ensure it meets standards compliant with ethics, procedures and values of service.

During 2006, the General Dental Council published Standards for Dental Professionals to set the expectations of the profession and the public in respect of the behaviour of dental professionals. With these standards in place, it is important for dental organisations to ensure their people are not only aware of the standards, but are equipped to meet them.

Continuous professional development is an essential requirement for professionalism in any work sector, requiring professionals to keep learning and consciously update their professional knowledge and improve professional competences throughout their working life. It is a commitment to being professional, keeping up to date and continuously seeking to improve, and places an onus on the individual to take responsibility for developing and directing their own career.

Interpersonal skills

For dental professionals, the requirement for growth goes beyond the need to develop clinical skills and into the realm of Continuous Personal & Professional Development (CPPD). The range of CPPD is based upon individuals’ need to develop communication and other interpersonal skills.

Skills that are best learned and cultivated within the culture of the team in which they work. For this reason it is beneficial for practices to include a staff development element within their team meetings to enable the group to air a range of subjects relevant to how their organisation interacts internally and with the public.

The Dental Resource Company has developed a range of four CPPD subjects, designed for use in the dental team to include as one hour’s verifiable CPD as part of their staff meeting. Delivered by audio CD, the programme opens up a range of subjects for discussion, based upon the Standards for Dental Professionals, and then offers questions and exercises for individuals to demonstrate their interpretation and understanding before leading the way to individual and team action planning. The programme has been very well received by the first groups of students completing it since its launch in July.

For future generations of dental professionals, professional awareness will be at the core of their education. For the time being it is the responsibility of senior colleagues to prepare the way for new dental professionals to embrace their new status fully aware of its implications.

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