Volume 9 • 2022 • Issue 6

Many dental assistants feel that there is a lack of opportunity for growth in the field. There are a limited number of jobs available to dental assistants outside of a dental office. As well, labour mobility is limited by the inconsistency of the regulatory landscape. Every province has their own regulations for dental assistants and unique training for different areas of practice. We are advocating to make it easier for dental assistants who move to a different province to continue in the profession in their new location. We’re hoping that, through our partnership with CDA and a joint grant application, we can address many of these issues through the development of HR training and mental health resources. Later this year, we will release a study regarding compensation, benefits and other factors that influence the dental assisting profession. CDAA is working on gathering more data about what support dental assistants need in the workplace. We look forward to sharing this information over the coming months. Q How has the pandemic affected the dental assisting profession? Are there both positives and negatives? HB: From a negative perspective, it has heightened our stress levels. In many cases, work takes longer than it used to. Similar to our health care colleagues, wearing enhanced PPE has been draining and stressful. Workloads have increased due to more stringent infection prevention and control (IPC) protocols. It’s stressful when we—or our families—get sick and we have to isolate. It’s hard when you have to miss work as it usually means you don’t get paid. But there are also some positives. The pandemic brought attention to the importance of IPC protocols in general. Dental assistants are highly trained in this area, and it is often one of our primary responsibilities in the dental office. Our IPC diligence matters, and now the general public knows a lot more about this aspect of health care. In our mental health study, we found that 73%of dental assistants felt a strong sense of personal accomplishment in their jobs. Providing patients with quality care during the pandemic has been hard, but it has also been meaningful. Oral health care was an essential service during the pandemic and the continuation of providing care to Canadians could not have happened without the commitment of dental assistants. Q What can be done to support dental assistants so that they can enjoy long and fulfilling careers? HB: Direct care doesn’t offer the same level of freedom as other occupations. This is partly what can make being part of a dental team demanding and stressful, at times. One of the first things to consider is the workplace environment. As a general best practice, it is important to continually focus on improving the workplace and learning how to foster a work culture that is healthy and supportive for all members of the team. Every team member in a dental office can benefit from better team building. Offices can implement policies and procedures that promote a fair, positive, less stressful work environment. Also, having explicit HR policies is important: policies set expectations, delegate who is responsible for what tasks, and create processes to deal with problems that may come up in a respectful and transparent manner. Our joint grant application with CDA will hopefully allow us to collaborate on the creation of HR training targeted for dentists and staff to help offices better understand how to improve employee retention, the salaries and compensations needed to recruit staff in a competitive labour market, and how to improve the workplace environment as a whole. It will also be an opportunity to provide training on As a general best practice, it is important to continually focus on improving the workplace and learning how to foster a work culture that is healthy and supportive for all members of the team. 19 Issue 6 | 2022 | Issues and People