Dental practice is a commercial, competitive world where your skills as a manager are as important as your skills as a dentist.

Even while you're a student, it's worth thinking about the management competencies you will need after graduation. Reflecting on your strengths and addressing possible weaknesses could give you the edge when applying for DF training and may make it easier to adapt when you enter the world of work.

The list below is a guide to the most important skills that will help you hit the ground running.

Leadership

Although you'll be a junior member of your practice you will still be expected to make clinical decisions and take responsibility for the care and treatment provided on your watch.

One important test of your leadership skills will be to establish effective, professional relationships with other members of the team, particularly your dental nurse. Their help and cooperation will enable you to provide the best possible care for patients. Plus, a friendly word from a colleague could help you avoid some of the pitfalls that await newly qualified dentists.

The GDC advocates a collaborative approach to team-working. Section 6 of Standards for the Dental Team states that dental professionals 'must treat colleagues fairly and with respect in all situations and all forms of interaction and communication'. Those who manage a team should ensure it has clear, shared aims and that members understand their roles and responsibilities.

It is natural to feel daunted at the prospect of assuming a leadership role but if you actively reflect on your interactions with colleagues and learn from these experiences you will almost certainly become more effective with time.

The value of management skills is now recognised in the dental curriculum. Of the four domains of dental foundation training (DFT), the majority are actually non-clinical skills

Time management

Keeping up with each day's appointment schedule and other routine tasks such as infection control and paperwork is an essential part of the job. It will also make your life easier because keeping patients waiting can result in anxious, irritated patients who may then complain to the practice. If you then put yourself under pressure to 'catch up', you may miss something important about a patient's condition or make a mistake.

Your trainer will understand that it will take you a while to get up to speed, but time management techniques can help. These include:

  • planning and prioritising tasks each morning
  • breaking difficult projects into smaller chunks to avoid becoming overwhelmed
  • using a time sheet (if you know you are spending too long on certain types of cases, you can ask for more support).