Maintain, improve and enhance

As a tutor of both the full-time and part-time training programmes in Dental Nursing accredited by The National Examining Board for Dental Nurses (NEBDN) at Marino College, students are always looking for guidance and information from me with regard to post-qualification courses and continuing professional development (CPD) available to dental nurses.

In the current economic climate a qualified dental nurse needs to keep his or her CV current and their skills updated. They need to be maintaining, improving and broadening their skills and knowledge by means of CPD.

There are several post-qualification courses available to qualified dental nurses, including:.
• Oral health education
• Sedation dental nursing
• Radiography
• Special care dental nursing
• Orthodontic nursing.

Making the right choice
When choosing a course, dental nurses should consider its relevance to their current role, ensuring the skill/ qualification they hope to gain is something that can be integrated into their working environment. This could be discussed with your dentist before finally deciding which type of skill would be considered to have the most relevance to the practice.

Be aware that some post-qualification certificates will require you to be working or have clinical contact in that field in order to complete your ‘Record of experience’.

Most post-qualification courses are arranged on a block basis, allowing the dental nurse to continue to work full-time and causing as little disruption as possible.

Having a dental nurse with a qualification in a specialist area is an asset to a dental practice. Employers should encourage and support dental nurses in their commitment to personal and professional advancement, and facilitate them as far as is reasonably practicable during their course of study. A motivated team makes a profitable practice!

Factors to consider when choosing your course include:
• Accessibility – in order to commit fully to a course you must be able to attend all lectures/tutorials. Long distance travel on a regular basis can be a great strain on students. Choose a course in block sessions/distance education if you feel this could be a factor. However, be aware that this form of study requires discipline and motivation
• Duration – choose a course that is going to suit your work/life commitments. It may be wiser to undertake your course of study over a longer period of time (modules), as post-qualification courses demand time being allocated for course work, research and study after your working
day. Pace yourself; it will be worth it!
• Motivation – what are your reasons for choosing a particular course? Is it for career advancement, personal satisfaction or monetary reward? Research your course and routes of professional progression on qualifying, ensuring you can achieve your initial goal.

Oral health
An area of interest and relevance to all dental nurses in practice is oral health. The Department for Health Promotion at NUI Galway, in partnership with the Dental Health Foundation, provides a one-year course resulting in a Specialist Certificate in Health Promotion (Oral Health). It is a taught programme comprising three modules that include workshops, distance education and web-based materials, plus one module that involves project work. Students qualify as oral health promoters and successful candidates can progress to a Higher Diploma in Health Promotion. The course commences September 2009 and is run by the Marino Institute Griffith Avenue. For more information email anneogrady@nuigalway.ie.

Belfast Metropolitan College also offers the Oral Health Educator Course (NEBDN), which runs from September to September. Contact dental tutor Rosemary Girwan on +44 (0) 28 902 65075 for further information.

Life-long learning
Qualified and unqualified dental nurses should also be aware of their professional responsibility in ensuring they keep their skills updated through CPD.

There are various ways of earning both verifiable and non -verifiable hours.

Verifiable CPD means the delivered programme has met set criteria and quality assurance. You will receive a certificate for these hours, which can be used as proof of CPD for your governing professional body, for example for the purpose of registration.

Non-verifiable/informal CPD covers all other activities that contribute to a dental nurse’s professional development and normally comprises general reading.

The Irish Dental Nurses Association is actively involved in promoting life-long learning for dental nurses and their involvement in their association. They advertise upcoming CPD days and events on their website at www.idna-ireland.com, which is updated regularly. Evening lectures are free of charge, while the full-day programmes (verifiable) usually incur a fee.  Hopefully, given the current economic climate, consideration will be given to a student rate for these full-day programmes in the future.

Online options
With their busy work and home lives, dental nurses don’t always have the time to attend such CPD courses. Another option that is both accessible and affordable is online CPD.

These websites operate by offering the nurse a number of non-verifiable CPD hours by simply reading the journal/ book or verifiable CPD hours by answering online questionnaires covering the topics or information within these articles. These websites also provide a wide variety of non-clinical and professional articles.

Dr Claire Morvan, who has taught students in practice for many years, has created the EDNA – Educating Dental Nurses Association. It has a CPD website that is supported by the book Dental nursing the EDNA way. It offers verifiable CPD and an annual subscription that is minimal (see www.ednaweb.com).

Your future, your way
Remember, it is your job, your career and your future. Never stop moving forwards, be proud of your profession and remember: maintain, improve and enhance.

A full prospectus of post-qualification courses and locations in both Belfast and London is available at www.nebdn.org.

For post-qualification courses available from Dublin Dental Hospital, email dentalnursetutor@dental.tcd.ie.

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