New study group

Laura McClune, Chair of BSDHT South East regional group, shares her plans for a pilot for a study group for newly qualified Hygienists and Therapists (H&Ts), which Philips is hosting and Laura is leading.



Laura is a proactive member of BSDHT and professional educator for Philips Oral Healthcare. She graduated from Kings College London in 2005 with a diploma in dental hygiene. She is a keen advocate for continuing professional development and is due to complete her MSc in Advanced and Specialist Healthcare from the University of Kent later this year.



What is your background? Where have you worked?

I qualified from Kings College London in 2005 and have been a dental hygienist for almost 15 years. I worked in general practices around London, the South East and Surrey until I started at Philips in 2018 as a Professional Educator. I now split my time between training and professional liaison focusing on Philips products and I still practise one day a week. I am also in the final stages of my MSc in Advanced and Specialist Healthcare at the University of Kent. My dissertation explores: ‘The experience of the dental hygienist working with and without dental nurses’. Next step? Publication!


What is the set up for the first study group for newly qualified H&Ts?

This study club is going to be a really effective way to bring small groups of dental hygienists and therapists together. Philips has carried out a lot of work with universities and dental schools, working with students. Many wanted to join a small-group learning environment which would help them as newly qualified H &Ts by providing support as they transition to their first jobs, allowing them to learn from their peers, sharing tips and tricks and empowering them to practice with confidence. Many newly qualified confided that they find it difficult to transition from being a student and that they would appreciate some support after they emerge into this big wild world of general practice.


On that basis, we are setting up this semi structured session limited to 12 delegates who have recently graduated and could benefit from our support. We encourage newly qualified H&Ts to come forward and register if they feel they could benefit from it.


What are you trying to achieve with the study group?

The aim is to give students support and guidance, equip them with knowledge they have not really learnt at university - the management role, managing diaries, how to set yourself up as self-employed - that sort of thing. I personally felt rather isolated when I started work. There was nothing in place and it was a big steep hill to climb. At least today we have more social media and access to key group learning. I did not get that chance and it was just down to sheer determination and working in different places that taught me how to deal with the job.


I feel so passionate about it. I don’t want my peers to be left to their own devices and ask themselves what they need to do next. Often a hygienist works in only one practice. It does not really occur to the dentist that they may need some support. Having said that, getting advice or mentoring from another hygienist would be even better because they really understand the challenges and can provide the emotional and practical support and guidance.


What will you be teaching during the session?

I decided to reach out to hygienists and therapists and ask them what they were missing and what elements of teaching they would value most from the study group sessions. Many came back saying they struggled managing their diary: the stressful transition from an hourly appointment at university to 15 patients a day with 30 minutes back to back appointments! They want to learn how to prioritise treatment times, deal with their contracts, manage patient expectations, communications, management and everything required when going to work in a dental practice for the first time.


Will there be a follow up session? Mentoring? Additional support for the group?

Following this initial study group, we will look to expand and roll it out and have regular or quarterly study clubs where people would bring their cases and experiences to share and discuss as a group.


We have plans to roll them out across the Philips’ educational teams - there are five professional educators and we all have dental nurse or dental hygienist backgrounds. If this pilot is as successful as we predict, it will be a concept that can definitely be rolled out across all disciplines. I am really interested in mentoring as soon as my Masters is complete.


Why are you focusing on newly qualified H&Ts?

I was there and can definitely relate to the concerns newly qualified H & Ts face. Students are so keen and eager, they have so much to offer but some may need direction. They are a prime group who can benefit from this and I am passionate about personal development and providing them with support.


What is the idea behind the study club?

Delegates will get verifiable CPD certification, and will therefore provide us with feedback. At the early stage of my career, there really wasn’t any positive engagement with companies in practice. Philips really want to engage and work with hygienists and therapists to offer support, both face to face and digitally. The company is planning to increase the level of digital support to provide more support options and make them easy to access.


We are putting together a new scheme for brand ambassadors. So, the people who love our products are being given this platform to promote themselves, really create a community of Sonicare users and recommenders, and help establish a platform for clinicians in their own rights.


What would you hope the take home message will be?

There is a lot of support available. It is overwhelming when you go out to a practice for the first time, you don’t know if you are doing things right. I want to show H&Ts that the support is there, and there are people who want them to do well, help them grow and develop as individuals.


When you were newly qualified, did you feel you were well equipped to go into dentistry or are there areas you felt could have been more supported, and by whom?

I knew how to do my clinical work and how to treat patients, but I had no idea how to manage my diary, deal with employers, dentists, practice politics, manage my cases and handle my self-employed status.


The BSDHT has always offered lots of support and host Study Days all across the UK in the regional groups. They also visit the schools and now have BSDHT Ambassadors.


However, help could also come from within the practice a bit more. They could be trained to support the newly qualified hygienists and therapists. Some practice owners might need support to understand our full scope of practice. It’s so important to understand how wide our skills set is and how a varied team can really benefit patients and help the practice thrive. We are here to help equip newly qualified individuals have those conversations.


How is the role of H&T evolving in your view and how can companies like Philips help them grow?

There is a lot more recognition of H & Ts as professionals in their own right. Many dental hygienists and therapists have a social media profile so they can now reach out to the public.


Companies like Philips are really helping by providing learning support tools for dental hygienists and therapists to help them grow and evolve, and make their working lives a lot easier through their innovations and products.


What are Philips’ plans for hygienists and therapists for 2020?

We are hoping to work a lot more with hygienists and therapists as the year unfolds. We are hoping to engage and support them face to face and digitally. Philips plan to increase brand awareness and show that we are there to support and create a community of Sonicare users and brand ambassadors and give a platform for themselves too.










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