A mistake which casts doubt on your honesty and integrity can attract attention from the GDC, says John Makin.

At this stage of your training, you’ll be actively looking for the next step in your career, but whether you are applying for your next position, accepting a new role, or publishing your work, dental professionals are expected to maintain the highest standards of professional behaviour both inside and outside their clinical practice.

As the GDC puts it in Standards for the Dental Team (Principle 9): ‘Ensure that your conduct, both at work and in your personal life, justifies patients’ trust in you and the public’s trust in the dental profession.’

In the DDU’s experience, the vast majority of dental professionals facing probity investigations have not deliberately set out to mislead. More often, they have acted hastily, paid insufficient attention or simply failed to think through the consequences of their actions.   

The following scenarios illustrate the type of mistake which could cause you problems, even at this early stage.   

Not properly qualified

A dentist applying for a hospital training post completed his online application in a hurry to meet the deadline. Unfortunately he failed to say that he had not yet passed his MJDF. He was accused of trying to mislead the local health education organisation about his qualifications.

DDU advice: The GDC expects that all members of the dental team ‘will be honest and act with integrity’ (Principle 1). It makes sense to double-check the documents you write are correct and that relevant information has not been omitted. You could also ask a colleague to review it to ensure nothing can be misunderstood.

The perils of copy and paste

A dentist undertaking foundation training submitted an article to a clinical journal. While researching online, she noticed a phrase which summarised a point she wanted to make. The dentist copied and pasted the phrase into her article but forgot to reference the source.

Although she had correctly attributed all the other quotes used in the article, the publishers of the journal used specialist software which picked up the phrase she had copied. She was subsequently accused of plagiarism.   

DDU advice: If you are focused on meeting a deadline, footnotes are often an afterthought. However, it’s easy to forget sources and the availability of plagiarism detection tools make this a risky strategy. Instead, make use of the referencing features in most word processing packages that enable you to insert citations as you go.

Opportunity knocks

A recently qualified dentist was offered a training post with a community team. She accepted the offer but a week later, she discovered a more attractive opportunity at a major city teaching hospital. Out of curiosity, she applied and was offered the post. Not wanting to miss out on her dream job, the dentist contacted the community team to say that she was no longer available to take up the post. Unfortunately, this was less than a week before she was due to start and she was reported to the GDC. 

DDU advice: The GDC states: ‘You must justify the trust that patients, the public and your colleagues place in you by always acting honestly and fairly in your dealings with them. This applies to any business or education activities in which you are involved as well as to your professional dealings.

‘You must always put your patients’ interests before any financial, personal or other gain.’ (Principle 1).

In these circumstances, you could contact the hospital and try to renegotiate your start date in order to meet your contractual notice obligations. If this is not possible, you have an ethical duty not to leave the community team in the lurch, however frustrated you feel.

Contact your dental defence organisation for advice if you are unsure whether a career decision might lead to criticism.

For more information on what the DDU has to offer, visit our website www.theddu.com, follow us on Twitter @The_ddu or get in touch by telephone on 0800 085 0614.