Step out of your comfort zone

Over recent years dental care professionals have gained enhanced status, making dental carers more aware of the importance of working in a structured, well-managed practice.

Although dental receptionists and practice managers are not required to register with the General Dental Council (GDC), they are still required to work within the GDC’s Standards for Dental Care Professionals and observe the principle of not performing duties beyond their competence.

As a result, receptionists who are taking on new practice management duties and practice managers new to dentistry are keen to find sources of training and support to enable them to meet the required standards. Ideally they need training followed up with mentoring until they are ready to move forward and gain a qualification in dental practice management.

Jane Armitage manages two sites for David Thompson and David Thomas in Sheffield, and was awarded the title of practice manager of the year by the Probe in 2005, 2006 and 2007. David Thompson was awarded dentist of the year in 2005 and 2007, and was highly commended in 2006, so it will come as no surprise that David and Jane are frequently contacted by slightly bewildered new practice managers for information and support.

In March 2007, working in collaboration with myself, they developed a one-day training programme, supported by one month’s ongoing mentoring, which was very well received when piloted in Sheffield. The programme, First Steps in Practice Management, will be rolled out in London on 14 September 2007 and repeated in Sheffield on 30 November.

The programme begins by delivering practical information and advice about developing effective practice management processes for the delivery of high-quality private or NHS dental services. In particular it looks at requirements for clinical governance and the range and scope of the practice manager’s duties in dental organisations, and how they can most effectively work with their employers to become a management team.

Universal models

Having examined what practice managers do, we then look at techniques of proactive, person-centred management to engage dental teams in the business of the practice, looking at a range of quality management models that have been universally used in dental care and underpin highly regarded programmes such as The BDA Good Practice Scheme and Investors in People.

The workshop will include practical exercises to explore ways these techniques can be applied to practical aspects of practice management relevant to individual practice managers.

The third aspect of the course is to look at ways to build enduring relationships with patients. The patient-centred practice is one in which services are designed to ensure patients feel important, understood and safe because they are being cared for by competent dental care professional respectful of their rights and needs.

As the need for well-managed practices becomes ever more evident for good staff retention and excellent patient care, and owing to the shortage of qualified practice managers, dental employers find the need to choose between recruiting someone with a dental background and provide management training, or a manager form another sector and teach them the aspects of dentistry.

Either way, this programme will provide new managers with an excellent introduction to proven practice management techniques. Full course details are available on the DRC website at

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