Workforce trends – putting patients first doesn’t mean dentists should come second

dentists needsNyree Whitley shares her views on workforce trends. She explains why she believes the profession needs to come together to respond to the changing needs of dentists.

Over the last decade, the way dentists want to work and how they feel about the industry has changed. We have to change with it.

According to the latest NHS Confidence Monitor Survey, 70% of dentists don’t envision working in the NHS in five years and more than a quarter (27%) plan to leave the profession altogether.

That’s a big problem when the country is facing the greatest shortage of dentists in years.

Being a dentist can be a stressful job. And we know that, for some dentists, working in the NHS system can be particularly challenging.

No-one can solve this issue overnight. However, we can all do more to ensure clinicians have the right team around them and the right materials and equipment to make their lives easier. And we can do more to help clinicians build their careers, develop specialisms or special interests and find a better balance between their NHS and private work.

A better work-life balance

According to a PWC report, Millennials at Work: Reshaping the Workforce, 33% of millennials (those typically born between 1980 and 2000) expect to work mainly flexible hours. Only a quarter expect to work regular hours.

In dentistry, we have definitely seen more clinicians looking for flexibility and a better work-life balance. This isn’t just among millennials. Dentists of all ages are subject to significant stress.  Particularly around litigation, regulation and fearing having too little time to treat patients well. Combine that with mounting pressure, commissioning headaches and increased patient demand and you have all the ingredients for stress, low morale and both physical and mental health issues.

The industry needs to recognise these pressures and respond to them.

I became a dentist because I love helping people. I think it’s really important the whole dental community comes together to raise up the profession and support those within it.

Support and guidance

I’m currently supporting a fantastic project called Confidental. It’s a helpline launching in the coming months, backed up by a website for dentists who need help with any problem. Whether it’s personal, professional, financial, legal or emotional. It has been set up for dentists, by dentists and I think it will make a huge difference.

But we can also offer more support to clinicians before services like this become necessary. Whether that’s through our patient support team, our partnerships with industry leading dental providers and insurers or our network of clinical support managers.

We’re a team and that’s important. The BDA studied the industry and found dentists working in hospital environments are often happier than those working in practices. Why? Because they have a network supporting and encouraging them.

Being a dentist is a great profession. We help change people’s lives. However, that shouldn’t be at the cost of our own mental and physical health. Or, by neglecting the importance of a good work-life balance. We should be working together as a profession to reduce the number of dentists feeling unfulfilled, overworked and unappreciated. We should be one team.

This article first appeared in Aesthetic Dentistry Today magazine. You can read the latest issue here.

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