Emily and Eleanor discuss the ongoing recruitment crisis in dentistry, including its cause and ways to overcome it.
If you’re currently in the dental industry right now and in a position in the business where you are involved in recruitment, I’d imagine that you, like us, are getting pretty frustrated at just how difficult it is to hire right now.
And we’re not just talking about finding the ‘right hire’. Although that is of paramount importance. Rather, we’re talking about just hiring, full stop.
Why is it so difficult to hire at the moment?
The combined impact of Brexit and Covid-19 has had a devastating impact on the ability to recruit dental technicians in the UK. There is, quite frankly, a dearth of applicants out there.
Brexit resulted in greater barriers to entry into the UK job market. It also caused many talented technicians to move elsewhere in Europe. Covid-19 made many of those remaining rethink just what they wanted out of life.
We’ve talked to many who have left the industry. The realisation that they could be paid the same but with half the stress, negativity and responsibility that being a dental technician sometimes brings has spurred them on to quit the industry – taking their knowledge and skills with them.
You also have the added impact of supplier and product companies recruiting dental technicians to their sales and product support teams. This is great when you need the support, but not when it means they are no longer producing the high-quality work they were doing before.
The final big blow, as we see it, is the distinct lack of awareness that the younger generation have for dental technology as a viable or even possible career path.
Does anyone remember it being mentioned or advertised at school? Any dental technicians standing behind a table at a recruitment fair at college or university? No, me neither.
A lot of people are in the industry because their parents are or were. Or they started with being a nurse or dentist in mind and then transitioned into dental technology.
Looking pretty bleak right?
So how do we solve this?
There is always the option of hiring from abroad, and there is nothing wrong with following this route. It is still perfectly achievable, but you must bear in mind that it will take longer and there is more of a commitment on you as an employer.
Essentially, EU citizens moving to the UK to work on or after 1 January 2021 will need to get a visa in advance. At the time of writing, those applying for a skilled worker visa will need to:
- Show they speak English at the required level
- Have a job offer from a Home Office licensed sponsor
- Make sure the job offer is at the required skill level
- Have a salary of at least £25,600, or the going rate for the job offer (whichever is higher).
There are, of course, other routes. And if you want to look at becoming a sponsor, head over to www.gov.uk/uk-visa-sponsorship-employers to check out what’s involved. Safe to say it’s not quite as easy or quick as it once was.
So if you need a quick hire, this may not be ideal for you.
Hiring within the UK
You can, of course, hire within the UK. If your business is in or near one of the major cities in the UK like London, Manchester or Birmingham, you might not have that much difficulty in recruiting.
However, if, like us, you’re a bit further afield, you might find this method less than fruitful.
Try using sites like Indeed, try recruitment companies, make use of Instagram and Linkedin, and use your website. You could also encourage your friends in the industry to help by sharing your ad.
To solve this in the long run, conversations need to be had by those in charge or those who can make real change.
Let’s get the conversation out there and bring in new talent to the industry. This is perhaps a topic for another article. But if you’re up for joining the conversation, let us know!
Scope of practice
Let’s come back to the short term solution to the problem – utilising your current talent in a different way, understanding your scope and working on improving efficiencies.
Excitingly, the GDC is currently overhauling the scope of practice document and hopefully making it less restrictive. Therefore, it should become easier for DCPs to do more.
On 16 February this year they announced a consultation on the scope of practice guidance. This calls for all dental professionals to give their feedback on the new guidance by 11 May.
It is so important that as many people as possible get involved with this so the scope of practice becomes something that is useful, applicable, understandable and representative of all.
Have your say here: www.gdc-uk.org/about-us/what-we-do/consultations-and-responses/#sop.
Utilise your team
In the meantime, let’s look at using your team within the current guidelines.
The easiest thing to do is to break down each technical task into its constituent parts. Identify which ones need to be completed by a qualified dental technician and which ones don’t.
Look within your team and see if it would make more sense to move someone from admin who has been there a while and understands the basics into being a process worker (assuming they want to). Then you can recruit someone new into admin.
Or perhaps some of your work as a manager or leader could be given to someone in admin to reduce your time spent on unnecessary tasks and allow you to go back to the bench for a bit. Even if just to help train someone within for a while.
Can you automate some tasks or outsource them, such as dealing with phone calls? Or could you spread the net wider to recruit graphic designers? Or those with an understanding of CAD who could pick up the programs and controls very quickly? They would then just need the dental training to understand what they were designing.
You could have three or four CAD designers all working on digital designs which are overseen by one dental technician who checks the dental aspect of each design before completion.
Utilise dental nurses
Your could also spread out into the other roles and recruit dental nurses. They are already allowed to pour, cast and trim study models, take shades, and construct occlusal registration rims and special trays. They can also repair the acrylic component of removable appliances and take impressions to the prescription of a dentist or a CDT.
In addition, they can construct mouth guards, bleaching trays and vacuum formed retainers to the prescription of a dentist.
Dental nurses already have a sound understanding of anatomy. In addition, they will have seen a number of dental appliances during their time in the clinic.
They also know how to speak to patients and dentists alike so they bring with them a wealth of knowledge. This knowledge could be utilised to help another qualified technician focus on the more complicated technical tasks.
Working as a team
In some cases technicians like working on their cases from start to finish. But you may not have the ability to work like that in the current climate if you cannot find the right hire.
As a result, some sacrifices may need to be made on how much of the case a technician can work on. As long as this is done effectively and the team work well together, it should improve output.
It’s important to note that there is a difference between allocating the right work out and creating a production line. While this could be being extremely efficient, it can also be extremely soul destroying for the employees.
The joy must still be found in the work, but it needs to work for everyone.
Catch up with the previous Technically Speaking column:
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