A dental nurse is responsible for assisting the dentist during patient examinations and procedures and may also perform certain procedures under the dentist's guidance. To train for this career, one must first complete a General Certificate of Secondary Education before enrolling in a trainee program. Various training programs are offered at medical schools, universities and independent dental nurse schools. Thoroughly researching these schools is essential to finding the most suitable program. Four years of academic training and experience are necessary before you can become a fully-certified dental nurse.
- Skill level:
Research the job responsibilities to ensure this career is your preferred choice. Understand that your role is to gather materials for the dentist, clean instruments, prepare patient interview history files and ensure patient comfort. Assess your abilities to communicate effectively and professionally with patients and medical personnel. This position requires excellent interpersonal communication skills besides the technical skills you will learn. Be prepared to perform administrative work as required. In certain practices, greeting patients, taking payments, arranging the dentist's appointment schedule and managing case files may also be required.
Obtain the General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE). Ensure that your grade is D to G, at minimum, for the lesser competitive dental trainee programs. You will need a grade of A to C for the more competitive dental trainee programs. Complete courses in biology, chemistry and English as part of your academic training towards the GCSE. While these are not prerequisites, some programs will require them.
Research the following programs: National Examining Board for Dental Nurses, City & Guilds, Scottish Qualifications Authority, Cardiff University, Barts and the London School of Medicine and Dentistry, University of Northampton, Portsmouth University. These are the only dental nurse training programs the General Dental Council accredits. Choose the location and program that best suits your professional and personal needs.
Apply for admission during one of the two admission cycles held throughout the year. The dates vary according to the specific program, though most are in February and August. Verify the exact dates with the program's website. Submit an application with supporting credentials, such as the GCSE and two professional references. Some programs ask that you submit a personal essay and/or statement of intent. Make sure to submit only what the program specifically requests, since admission personnel do not want to be bogged down with superfluous information. Take great consideration with these materials because most programs generally do not allow reapplication for six months. Speak to your professional references and ensure they will strongly vouch for your integrity and work ethic.
Be prepared to embark upon two years of intensive dental nurse study before reaching certification. Upon completion of the academic training program, you will need a satisfactory passing score on the national certification exam, plus two years of surgical dentistry experience, to receive full certification as a dental nurse.
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