This book principally concerns itself with practical applications of mentoring within the profession of dentistry in the United Kingdom (UK). Whilst the book is written to showcase case studies within dentistry in the UK it is important to acknowledge that the skills of both dental professionals and mentors are not dissimilar throughout the world. If you are working outside the UK whether in dentistry or different field you will find much that you can take away from the book and the case studies. It is also important to acknowledge that whilst the case studies relate to dentists, their application is equally valid for all dental professionals.
The inspiration for the book came from students who have completed our post graduate certificate and award qualifications in mentoring and coaching. They are hard‐working dental professionals with a passion for both dentistry and mentoring and we are indebted to their contributions. Future students will be directed to this publication as a course book, however it is not limited to being a course text.
We provide a number of case studies for projects which showcase how mentoring is being utilised in positive ways to enhance individuals and the services those individuals provide. The aim is to demonstrate how mentoring programmes can be implemented and the benefits they can bring. We invite you to submit your own case study examples to our website at www.dentalcoachingacademy.co.uk.
Whilst mentoring is a practical intervention it is underpinned by sound theory and the acquisition of mentoring skills. We have included chapters that describe mentoring and coaching as the two interventions share a number of skill areas, yet are quite different in purpose and application. We have also included a chapter on mentoring and coaching tools and models with particular attention to a model that we have successfully used in our training programmes. The discussion chapter will review topics that the case studies have introduced and other aspects that we hope will provoke further thought.
Please note: for readers outside the UK or those who are not dental professionals, organisations within the UK that relate to dentistry may read like alphabet soup. We refer you to the glossary for a brief explanation of the organisations and terminology used. Please also note that, unless we make specific distinctions, we use terms like ‘coach’ and ‘mentor’ interchangeably, as we hold no attachment to the terms in their general usage. If you want to ‘coach’ someone, that’s great; if you prefer to ‘mentor’ them, that’s fine too. Both are possible as dental professionals supporting others’ growth and development in general terms; or when we are acting as managers and leaders and drawing on coaching and mentoring skills generally. Where we make distinctions is when these skills are applied in professional settings and a precise tool, or approach is required by the context.
Mentoring is increasingly being seen by organisations generally, and the dental profession in particular, as a way of helping and supporting the development of people (employees, staff, contractors, patients) to achieve their goals. The word mentor has come to mean trusted adviser, friend, teacher, and wise person. The term ‘coach’ has been more commonly associated with someone supporting personal and professional performance, goal achievement, and drive. We aim to broaden both these terms to encompass enhanced self‐awareness, development, personalised learning, and excellence in practise.
In dentistry we are still at the beginning of appreciating the potential and benefits of mentoring. In our experience more and more dental professionals are undertaking training to become mentors, such that these skills are applied more intentionally and more professionally. As will become evident as you read through the book, great mentors combine skill, expertise, and experience with the skills of mentoring in the service of another individual, the mentee. The practical skills, expertise, and experience that others wish to learn and emulate will not be covered by the book, they are taken as present. What the book does cover are the skills of translating that expertise and experience into a worthwhile, productive conversation, and relationship that promotes growth and development of another individual, the mentee.
Mentoring has slowly been gaining a position within dentistry since the Millennium with more and more dental professionals becoming familiar with the term and the concept of mentoring. It is also good to see this recognition from the statutory regulator for dental professionals.
Activities such as coaching and mentoring, where individuals are supported by other members of the dental profession, also have an important role to play here, and are valuable ways of enhancing the skills and approach of all involved.
Shifting the Balance: a better, fairer system of dental regulation
Vernon Holt did much to champion mentoring within the dental profession and his series of articles written between 2008 and 2010 are referenced frequently through the literature. Holt produced his thesis in 2013 and it contains a rich mine for those wishing to know more about mentoring in dentistry.
I suggest that a culture proactively supportive of practitioners at all stages of their careers using routine mentoring could do more than any amount of audit of techniques, protocols or choosing of ‘the latest’ materials, to enhance the quality of care delivered. Furthermore, because the dentist has a leadership role in the practising environment, the quality of performance of the dentist in the team can have a profound effect on the morale and culture of the team of which he or she is a part. This in turn will influence the quality of patient care indirectly as well as the direct effect through his/her own clinical performance
(Holt 2013, p. 24).
It is from the 1980s that we start to see the emergence of a body of literature about mentoring in American business management (Colley 2002). Influential articles, particularly Roche’s report, Much Ado about Mentoring (1979), claimed to have discovered mentoring as an informal but important part of a businessman’s career. Mentoring in Britain then began to be seen as an American import, which had to be adapted to British culture. Clutterbuck was instrumental in the 1980s in bringing the idea of mentoring to Britain from the United States. He is regarded as the ‘grandfather’ of mentoring in the UK.