5 Sep 2021  •  HR & Employment Law  •  6min read By  • Nicola Gresty

How to upskill and get the best out of your dental nurses

Nicola Gresty, Practice Plan Area Manager, has been talking to Lisa Bainham, The Old Surgery Practice Manager and President of Association of Dental Administrators and Managers (ADAM), about why you should value your dental nurses and how you can get the best out of them…

NG: Hi Lisa, how important are dental nurses to the day-to-day running of a practice?

LB: They’re hugely important, they can be the unsung heroes of the practice and a lot of things couldn’t happen without dental nurses. Their main role within the practice is to shadow the dentist, however, their job doesn’t just stop there.


Within our practices, we really do understand the importance of the role dental nurses play, and I think that comes from having been a nurse myself and knowing just how tough the job can be. As that’s how I started, I’ve always put a huge emphasis on valuing my nurses and giving them the right support and opportunities to really thrive in their jobs.

If you do that, and if you see how important they are to your team, then you’ll be able to get the best of them.

NG: What can a practice do to upskill its dental nurses?

LB: There are several things you can do; the first point we like to cover is, very early on, setting out what opportunities will be available to them.

So, for example, when we interview for a new position, we explain that if the candidate were to be successful, we would encourage them to go on courses and achieve extra qualifications.

It could be a course in radiography, CT scanning or sedation, that will help to steadily build their skillset. We even had a nurse who really enjoyed cooking, so she went on a food hygiene course and now she prepares the food when we have a ‘lunch and learn’ event in the practice!

Offering these opportunities makes dental nurses feel valued, it gives them a purpose and it helps to create a really strong team of people that want to work for you.

When it comes to upskilling and putting dental nurses through courses, there are a couple of good points to remember. One is that certain courses may be suited to some nurses but not others. It’s not a one size fits all process, and by really getting to know each nurse’s personality you will be able to identify individual support and training needs.

When your dental nurses have taken the time to learn and develop through the courses you’ve offered them, it’s also important to remember that this should really be reflected in their pay. It’s similar to investing in a new piece of equipment; you spend money on that piece of equipment to make your business better, so you should do the same when it comes to your dental nurses.

NG: Can you give an example of how investing in dental nurses can help your business to grow?

LB: When we began in 1998, there was me, one dentist and one patient, and now we’ve grown to a point where we have 40 staff over two practices, and that has come from having a really strong team. We’ve added to our workforce and invested in individuals and that has helped us grow the business, and in particular it has helped over the last 12 months.

The practice has really been flying, and I do attribute that to having a strong and motivated team, and I give credit to them every single day. Without them, the business wouldn’t have grown in the way it has.

By investing in all our staff, we’ve enjoyed a really low staff turnover and 70% of our current workforce have been with us for ten or more years. That itself means we don’t have to go out and recruit as much, which can be expensive in terms of time and money.

A story that springs to mind when discussing how investing in staff can help your business to grow; one of our nurses, who has been with us for a long time, was an excellent nurse and trained as a therapist, but she didn’t enjoy this new role. So, she retrained as a treatment coordinator and became the first in the country to get a recognised qualification. Now, she’s bringing in new patients all the time and has a 90% conversion rate from conversation to appointment. So, it shows how we have benefitted by investing in and upskilling her.

NG: If you had one piece of advice for a practice that wanted to upskill their team, what would it be?

LB: For me, support is the main thing that can help nurses thrive. When they first come into the practice, some can find it an intimidating place, so it is important to always support them so they can grow confidently in the job.

When it comes to upskilling and investing in your team, you can be by their side to support them and let them know that if they fail a course, they can try again, or try something else. Supporting them to discover where they can really flourish is hugely important. For example, you may have a nurse who isn’t the quickest clinically but is great at communicating, so you could support and help them to grow in more of a front of house type of role.

By offering support as well as investing not just resources but effort into improving your dental nurses abilities, you can not only help them enjoy a much more fulfilled career, but also create a better and more successful practice.

NG: Thanks for your time Lisa!


About Nicola

Nicola is an Area Manager at Practice Plan

About Lisa

Lisa has been the Practice Manager at The Old Surgery Dental Practice in Crewe for over 20 years. She began her career as a dental nurse before moving into practice management in 1998. Over the years she has won awards, such as the 2016 Practice Manager of the Year at the Association of Dental Administrators and became president of ADAM in the same year.

Get all blogs delivered to your inbox

By subscribing to our blog, you agree to receiving our monthly blog update and newsletter. You can unsubscribe at any time. The security of your personal data is very important to us and we will never sell your data to other companies. You can read more about how we protect your information and your rights by reading our privacy notice.