New approaches to pre-registration dental nurse training

NHS Education Scotland’s DCP Workstream Lead outlines the new approach to pre-registration dental nurse training, and the team’s rapid digital transformation during the pandemic that enabled continued progression of the programme

10 February, 2021 / indepth
 Caroline Taylor  

The Dental Care Professional (DCP) Workstream within NHS Education for Scotland (NES) is responsible for delivering high quality education and training for pre and post-registration Dental Care Professionals, Practice Managers and Receptionists, to support the delivery of high-quality dental care.

Our provision of pre-registration dental nurse training supports trainee dental nurses towards obtaining the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA)Scottish Vocational Qualification (SVQ) & Professional Development Award (PDA) in Dental Nursing.  Once they complete these qualifications, trainees can register with the General Dental Council (GDC) and practise using the title ‘Dental Nurse’.

Modern Apprenticeship in Dental Nursing

In 2019 NES became a Training Provider with Skills Development Scotland (SDS), to provide the Modern Apprenticeship in Dental Nursing. This enabled fully funded places for trainees to undertake the Modern Apprenticeship.

What is a Modern Apprenticeship?

Modern Apprenticeships offer those aged 16 and over, in paid employment within Scotland, the opportunity to train and work towards a vocational qualification. This modern apprenticeship framework complements our existing approach to providing pre-registration dental nurse training.

Apprentices work towards achieving the assessment requirements for SVQ & PDA in Dental Nursing qualifications, which is required for registration with the GDC. In addition, apprentices need to evidence attainment of the SQA Core Skills Units, (Communication; Information and Communication Technology; Numeracy; Problem Solving and Working with Others). These may have already obtained at school or college or can be achieved throughout the programme.

Collaboration and support

Once registered on the NES programme, the trainee dental nurse becomes a ‘Modern Apprentice’. From the offset we provide ongoing support to both apprentices and training practices – employers and practice teams.

Our aim is to develop positive and collaborative relationships to support progression and provide a positive learning experience for the apprentice.  This is maintained throughout the programme by regular communication and progress review meetings conducted every 13 weeks.  These review meetings provide the apprentice, employer, and training provider (the apprentice’s assessor) to meet regularly to review the apprentice’s progress to date, provide feedback, discuss any queries, and agree a series of short-term goals towards completion.

Digital transformation

Since March, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, all NES education centres have remained closed and staff continue to work from home.

The pandemic required an immediate response to adapt our approaches in how we provide education, training and assessment.  The team embraced this positively, rapidly exploring digital options to maintain the progression and support of our learners.   Those with experience of digital platforms provided valuable support to start this journey and experiment with new ways of working. 

The team have now creatively redesigned educational programmes and assessments utilising digital technologies to create new blended learning approaches. New business support standard operating procedures have been created to support new digital ways of working.  

Innovative methods using live video stream and video recordings are now being used to remotely assess performance within the workplace, with secure processes in place for confidentiality and obtaining consent. 

In addition, the team have been working closely with SQA to develop further digital assessment resources.


Feedback from our learners, employers, and external stakeholders has been very positive:

  • It is such unusual times that we are all living through and I personally am very grateful for the support and encouragement I have had from the NES team”.
  • “The online study days have always been very well organised and designed to recognise and understand our needs as we were introduced to distance learning. They incorporated interactive elements and opportunities such as discussions, group assignments and online meetings. These social interaction elements helped to build a sense of community and prevented feelings of isolation during these uncertain times”.

Positive outcomes

Despite the challenges faced during the pandemic, we maintained the delivery of the programme and supported our first cohort towards completion.  Over 80 trainees have now successfully achieved the requirements of the Modern Apprenticeship in Dental Nursing and completed their pre-registration training. They have proceeded to register with the GDC and will now embark on their professional career in Dental Nursing. 

A further 90 new trainees have recently commenced the Modern Apprenticeship in Dental Nursing. The programme now follows our new blended learning approach utilising digital technologies, and trainees attend study days via an online training platform.

The Modern Apprenticeship in Dental Nursing provides an excellent, fully funded framework to support pre-registration dental nurse training. The programme creates opportunities for regular communication and collaborative with the apprentice’s workplace to enable a positive learning experience for the apprentice and provide valuable workplace support.

For further information on the Modern Apprenticeship programme check our pages on the Turas learning platform:

New approaches for the future

The pandemic began a rapid digital transformation in the way we provide education and training for dental care professionals. We look forward to continuing to evolve and adapt our new approaches in the future in all the education and training programmes we provide.

Caroline Taylor is DCP Workstream Lead for NHS Education for Scotland:

Local contact information

Dental Nurse Induction, Pre & Post Dental Nurse Training Programmes

Orthodontic Therapy Training

Practice Manager and Dental Receptionist Training

  • Charlotte Leggatt / Specialist Lead Dental Practice Manager Education / The Centre for Health Science, Inverness:

Tags: Dental Nurse / NHS Scotland / Training

Categories: Feature / Magazine

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