Voluntary work

What to consider when you want to do voluntary work during study.

The scene

A dental nurse, who was in their final year of study to become a dental therapist, saw a poster requesting volunteers for a dental service at a homeless charity. The nurse wanted to help, but was unsure whether they could use their newly acquired skills.

DDU advice

The dental nurse may be close to qualifying as a dental therapist, but they are not yet registered. This means they're restricted to the tasks for dental nurses listed in the GDC's Scope of Practice document.

The GDC says that, "You must only carry out a task or a type of treatment if you are appropriately trained, competent, confident and indemnified," which means they risked a GDC investigation if they examined patients or made a diagnosis outside the dental school setting. Even worse, they would not be indemnified for this work which, would leave them liable in the event of a claim and put their registration at risk.

Provided the nurse didn't carry out tasks within the scope of practice of a therapist, they could still volunteer, but it would be a good idea to clarify this with the charity. They might also want to confirm their indemnity position with their dental defence organisation. 

What happened next

The dental nurse spoke to the charity about the volunteer roles and explained the limits on what they could do. Taking this into account, the charity was happy to accommodate them and the nurse benefited from the opportunity to observe and learn, while supporting other members of the dental team and patients.

This is a fictionalised case compiled from actual DDU case files.

This page was correct at publication on 23/11/2023. Any guidance is intended as general guidance for members only. If you are a member and need specific advice relating to your own circumstances, please contact one of our advisers.

Leo Briggs deputy head of the DDU

by Leo Briggs Deputy head of the DDU

Leo Briggs qualified from University College Hospital, London, in 1989. He has worked extensively in the community dental service including a brief period overseas. He has also worked in general dental practice.

Leo gained a masters degree in periodontology from the Eastman in 1995 and is on the GDC specialist register for periodontics. From 1995-2017 he provided specialist periodontal treatment in both the salaried dental services and private practice. He started working for the DDU in 2005. Between 2007 and 2009 he worked part time at the DDU and part time as a clinical tutor at the School for Professionals Complementary to Dentistry in Portsmouth. In 2009 Leo went full time with the DDU. In January 2016 he became deputy head of the DDU.