A Day in the Life of an NVQ assessor

The role of the assessor is a mystery to many people. Some think that the job is very easy as they imagine it only involves us watching the dental nurses and ticking pieces of paper; however, this is not the case. If only it were!

Oral Healthcare NVQ level 3

The Oral Healthcare NVQ level 3, which we run at Tempdent, is a streamlined, structured and in-depth course that concentrates on areas that are specific to the dental nurse's role. There are three sections to the full qualification: a portfolio, consisting of 14 units; the Independent Assessment exam; and key skills in communication and application of number. The students attend a weekly class in which a tutor will give the underpinning knowledge the nurses need for their portfolio and also the relevant preparation for the independent assessment exam. The portfolio has to be completed by means of observation of the nurse at work and completing a variety of other tasks, which is where we, as assessors, come in. Our job is not only to assess the necessary tasks but also to progress and develop the dental nurse’s knowledge and practical skills, and to ensure that they are as efficient and competent as they can possibly be. Our job mostly, therefore, is to ensure and encourage the nurses to do the work and to complete the tasks in a reasonable timescale.

A typical day

Our typical day would involve visiting two dental practices, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. After initially talking to the dentist about what needs to be done at the visit, we enter the surgery to observe the dental nurse, ensuring all the while that we remain as unobtrusive as possible. This can often be anything from squatting on a child’s plastic molar-shaped chair or luxuriating in the dentist’s late grandfather’s full size leather chair!

Observing the candidate

The candidate has certain criteria to meet throughout the observations and these are always planned from the previous visit. Many different types of treatments need to be observed – from a basic check-up to a surgical extraction – and the practices and staff always do their best to get specific treatments booked to coincide with our visit. This ensures that the assessment process runs more smoothly, which keeps the assessor happy and makes our job slightly easier.

After approximately an hour of what A day in the life of an NVQ assessor Assessors help to progress and develop the dental nurse's knowledge and ensure efficiency and competency during their period of training for a qualification.

Career Development we hope will be productive observations in the surgery, we retire to a private room or quieter place to write up the detailed observations, award the criteria that have been met and write feedback for the candidate.

An assessor’s main complaint is often writer's cramp! We will then provide verbal and written feedback to the candidate, concentrating on what they did well and commenting on areas where they can improve. The work is then placed into the candidate’s portfolio and referenced by marking off the criteria that has been achieved. The candidate carries out this process with our assistance.

Planning the next visit

The assessor and dental nurse will then plan what work will be carried out at the next visit, which is usually 4weeks later. A date and time is then set with the practice that will be convenient for all involved. We always aim to cause minimal disruption to the dental practice and staff during these assessments, as we understand that they have a job to do, as do we.

Maintaining a good relationship

The relationship between the dental practice and the assessor needs to be a good one. We aim to work together with the practice and the team in the interest of the candidate. The more cooperative a practice is, the faster the dental nurse can progress to a better level of work. There are, of course, some practices that are very negative and unwilling to work with us; we tend to find that uncooperative practices usually have a detrimental effect and delay the candidate’s successful completion of the NVQ. We also find that nurses enter the field and course with an unrealistic idea of what it entails. Dedication and commitment from the candidate is paramount in ensuring their, and our, success.


The assessor’s role is not suited to everyone, but those of you who are lucky enough to become an assessor will find that it can be a very successful career. It is also an excellent opportunity for dental nurses who wish to have more of a challenge and help others to succeed and excel in the industry. An assessor’s job is not easy, but it is extremely rewarding. There are many highs and lows, but when you reach that final visit and complete that challenging candidate’s portfolio, you feel a sense of accomplishment, relief and great satisfaction.


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