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Dental Nursing: Preparing for the challenges ahead

There’s no denying that a career in dental nursing is easy. Like most health and care professions, it’s inevitable that there’ll be a great deal of hard work and stress. Although an incredibly fulfilling career, it’s important to understand the challenges and manage the expectations that are placed on newly qualified staff.

Understanding how to tackle the obstacles that lie ahead will help nurses to build resilience and address the issues head on. Here, we look at the most common issues nurses face and how those problems are managed in the practice.

High expectations

As dental technology advances, digitalisation grows at record rates and patients become more informed thanks to the internet, there is a huge demand for the latest treatments and procedures. Nurses may find themselves having to upskill regularly to meet the needs of the practice. 

New nurses are often expected to hit the ground running. It depends on the practice, but for those who are particularly understaffed, there may simply not be enough staff to provide constant supervision so new nurses will be expected to use their initiative and crack on. Not only will staff be required to know their dental knowledge, but may even be required to be well-versed in social media so that they can help market the practice online. Nurses are regularly multi-tasking on a daily basis and are expected to perform a wide range of tasks to keep a surgery running smoothly. At present, social media has become a popular channel to which patients will try to communicate with their practice. 

All of this can become overwhelming quickly which is why it’s important that nurses speak out if the work is getting too much. Talk to supervisors, request regular breaks and give yourself time to plan your daily tasks. Your team needs a nurse who can perform to the best of their ability, not a burnt-out one.

Difficult patients

It only takes one harsh comment to ruin your day. Manage expectations and understand that some patients are probably having a really bad day themselves so their attitude is no reflection on how they have just spoken to you. Like any job in a patient facing role, it can be challenging having to put up with unkind interactions. However, we are all human and it’s important to remember that we all have good and bad days.

If a patient is giving you a hard time, be understanding, compassionate and help where you can. If they are being downright abusive, then there should be absolutely no tolerance for that. Most, if not all practices will have policies in place to protect their staff so that aggressive patients will be removed if staff feel threatened. No one should ever feel unsafe at work so it’s important that practices protect this right. 

Most important of all, nurses must remember to take care of themselves. It can be easy to forget about yourself when you spend your days looking out for others. Remember why you entered the profession and be proud of how far you’ve come. Make note of every little victory so that you can look back on those bad days to reassure yourself that you’re doing a great job.

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