Decision-Making Basics

May 27, 2020

Decision Making in Difficult Times – Return to the Basics

As dentistry returns to providing all patient services, we recognize that dental assistants have questions. Many of you are looking for clarification about the expectations of the various oral health regulators. We expect dental assistants to continue to practice to the highest standards to ensure protection of the public. Here’s some information to help you do this.

While specific treatments and procedures may vary based on circumstances like patient need, materials, equipment and operator preference, the standards for professional practice do not change.1

Refer to the principles below and your own professional judgement as you collaborate with your employer(s) and co-workers to determine best practices for moving forward.

1. Dental Assistants are required to follow the direction provided by the Chief Medical Officer of Health and the College of Alberta Dental Assistants, and all relevant provincial and federal legislation.

  • Keep yourself informed and up to date.
  • Check for the most recent information before making a decision to ensure you are complying with current requirements.

2. Dental Assistants work within a team setting and use appropriate communication strategies to ensure successful outcomes for patients, team members and others.2

  • Ask questions. Offer suggestions.
  • Consult applicable guidelines/ requirements.
  • Discuss whether a suggested method or procedure aligns with the intent of the guidelines/ requirements.
  • Base your decisions on the intended outcome.

3. Infection control continues to be an essential component in providing safe patient care.

  • It’s critical that you understand how to break the chain of infection. Review our Understanding IPC: Beyond PPE post.
  • Every dental office or clinic is required to have their own written infection prevention and control (IPC) policies and procedures.3 These IPC manuals are developed from resources such as:
    • ADA&C Infection Prevention and Control Standards
    • Alberta Health Services
    • Health Canada
    • Public Health Agency of Canada
    • Occupational Health and Safety
    • Canadian Standards Association
    • Individual Manufacturer’s Instructions for Use

Your workplace IPC manual is a valuable resource. Ideally, it is continually reviewed and updated with information regarding best practices.

  • The oral health regulators set the minimum standard for infection control, you are responsible to stay informed and apply ethical decision making.4

4. Dental Assistants must practice in a safe, competent and ethical manner.

  • Use the Ethical Decision-Making Framework in our Code of Ethics.
  • Collect information and identify the issue. What legislation, policy or regulation is involved?
  • Determine feasible alternatives. Which evidence-based alternative will provide the best outcome for the patient?
  • Propose and test possible solutions. Who and what will this impact?
  • Make your choice. Accept responsibility and learn from your decision.

1. Standards of Practice 2.1
2. Standards of Practice 6.1
3. ADA&C
Infection Prevention and Control and Risk Management for Dentistry, pp. 5
4. Code of Ethics- Ethical Decision-Making Framework

Current date: September 23, 2020

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