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Dental Radiography: can nurses press the button?

Can nurses press the button?

Many people mistakenly think that a dental nurse needs a radiography qualification before they can press the exposure button for taking a radiograph.

This is not the case: a suitably trained nurse does not need a radiography qualification to press the button. 

Official guidance

Dental nurses should have the skills and abilities to perform certain operator roles as part of their training, such as assisting a dentist in preparing to take a radiograph, pressing the exposure button under supervision, processing a film radiograph or a CR plate.

They have the possibility of acquiring the additional operator skills of preparing and taking radiographs by further training.

Guidance notes for dental practitioners on the safe use of X-Ray equipment (2020). Royal College of General Practitioners.

With patients who can’t stay still, the delay between the film and tube being positioned by an operator, and the button being pressed by them, can result in a failed film due to movement. Even if the movement was noticed and no exposure made, it means time wasted repositioning and extra stress for the patient.

Although it only takes a few moments to find the button, the operator usually has to take their eye off the patient to find it.

Most dentists find it helpful in these circumstances to have a nurse next to the button, who can press it when commanded, immediately the operator is in the clear. Even 2 seconds saved can make the difference.

An additional advantage is the “button-presser” will have clean hands for the button, whereas the operator will have saliva and possibly blood on their hands.

For these reasons, the regulations sensibly allow dental nurses (including trainee dental nurses) to press the button so long as they have had some immediately relevant training, and do it under the supervision of the IRMER Operator (dentist). These nurses do not need to take an additional radiography training course.

The key points in the "button-pressing" training (which can be done in-house) are:

  • The nurse understands the local rules for the machine they are operating.
  • The nurse knows where these local rules are kept in the practice.
  • The nurse knows that they must be directly supervised.
  • The nurse knows they must not under any circumstances press the button until ordered by the supervisor.
  • The nurse knows they must keep the button pressed down until the audible warning stops, or they are ordered to release it by the supervisor.
  • The nurse knows where the isolator switch is.

A record of this training must be kept in the practice radiation file, and the employee's personal file, dated and signed by the trainer, usually the practice dentist.

This and much more is covered in our Enhanced CPD course on IRMER & IRR - Legal Aspects. GDC Highly Recommended and suitable for all members of the dental team - sign up today!

Text source: Verified Learning
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