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It takes two- Be nice to your nurse

in Working Life

It takes two- Be nice to your nurse

Marjani Orchery studied at Kings College London and qualified in 2012. Marjani is currently working as an associate in an NHS practice and after speaking with the nurses with whom she works, she was  inspired  to write an article. This item is about the importance of a strong professional relationship between dentist and nurse and the value of maintaining it. It also explores ways to strengthen the relationship.

Maintaining and strengthening a good relationship between dentist and nurse is paramount to the success of any practice. When the dentist and nurse are in harmony, work is efficient and smooth; yet when there is conflict, it is all too apparent to the other staff and most importantly, the patients.

Upon speaking to many nurses in different fields of practice over the years, it is evident that unfortunately some practitioners may take their nurses for granted. Brusque language, lack of politeness and dismissiveness are all too often common complaints heard from nurses and other team members.  Whilst root fillings and crown preps can be stressful procedures, the preparation made by the nurse is vital to complete work in a timely fashion.

Four handed dentistry remains the basis for effective treatment with the nurse and dentist both actively involved in the transfer of instruments and materials. The nurse must anticipate the dentist’s actions and respond just as quickly, whilst avoiding becoming an obstruction.

So, imagine having to drill a crown prep on an upper left 7? Without any aspiration or retraction?  Or better yet, imagine full mouth pocket charting, with no one to help you? The time needed to carry out what should be a relatively simple process would increase exponentially, leaving you frustrated and the patient probably exhausted.

Yet beyond the physicality of work, the attitude and tone of voice that a dentist can display towards the nurse is perhaps more concerning.  Words like ‘please’ and  ‘thank you’ do not go amiss and it must always be remembered ,that there is a patient keenly observing and listening to everything happening around them. It is well known that patients will often relay their experiences in the chair to anyone who will listen, particularly those which are unpleasant and negative. That’s not great news for building a practice….

Team building activities can be beneficial to improving relationships within the practice. Getting to know other staff on a personal level, outside of the clinical environment can often be an enlightening experience and prove the foundation for greater commonality.  Taking the time to express an interest in those you work with will also help to develop the relationship in a positive way.

Activities to try:


•Team lunches/dinner
•Attending an activity day with staff
•In-house team building
•Organising staff parties
•Empowering  nurses with opportunities to attend seminars/lectures with the dentists
•Encouraging nurses to pursue opportunities in further training/learning in subjects which interest them

A wise old dentist once told me, ‘the nurse knows as much as you do, but about different things,’ and this still remains pertinent advice. An experienced nurse can often help to reassure and calm anxious patients, deal with difficult patients and offer a different and valuable perspective on treatment. After all, it was a great nurse who taught me everything about units of dental activity!!
Therefore, though it remains a minority of dentists who are culpable, it is imperative to always appreciate our nurses and the value they add to the dental team which ultimately benefits our patients.

Marjani Orchery
NHS Dentist


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