September 4, 2019

More than 1,000 candidates participate in 10 different stations to complete the timed practical exam – the OSCE, which will result in a pass or fail mark. Here, the team at NEBDN talk us through the preparation.

As part of the National Examining Board for Dental Nurses (NEBDN) qualification, candidates must have completed their written exam first before sitting their practical. Once qualified, successful candidates will receive their NEBDN National Diploma in Dental Nursing and can then go on to register with the General Dental Council (GDC).

NEBDN does a wonderful job of organising the OSCEs, which is a massive project to manage across multiple locations in the UK – there were more than 550 candidates sitting their exam in London alone! So much work goes on behind the scenes with everyone making a great effort to work as a well-oiled team. It really is an inspiring project.

How many centres?
The number of centres and locations may change each exam, depending on how many candidates pass their written exam. The June exam had five centres – Belfast, Birmingham, London, Manchester and Swindon.

How many candidates?
June 2019 had 1,032 candidates sit the exam.

How many are there in a year?
The OSCEs run twice a year – once in January and once in June.

What can a dental nurse expect on the day?
Once candidates arrive at the examination centre, they will register for the examination. They will need to bring their photographic ID and candidate notice (without these they will not be allowed entry to the examination). They will then be shown an area to change into their clinical uniform. Candidates will be given housekeeping instructions followed by a candidate briefing. From this point on, they are in examination conditions and must listen carefully to all instructions. Candidates will be given a handbook containing copies of the OSCE candidate instructions that they will see in the exam prior to going in, then they will be taken to the examination room.

How best to prepare?
Preparation for the OSCE exam should be started by the course provider and will include a full mock exam. In preparation for the OSCEs, candidates should refer to the candidate briefing, the GDC Learning outcomes and the NEBDN curriculum information found on the website under National Diploma – Resources. The curriculum states the assessment methods used for each learning outcome. Revision should focus on the topics that are assessed by OSCEs.

How important is timekeeping?
Timekeeping is very important. Candidates should check their travel routes a few days before the exams for delays or diversions. Candidates who arrive late won’t be let into the exam.

What advice do you have to calm those nerves?
We all get nervous in unfamiliar environments. Candidates will have carried out a mock exam and should feel confident with an OSCE situation. The tasks are something that a dental nurse carries out every day, so we encourage candidates to try to push their nerves aside, take five seconds and breathe during the exam and refer to the candidate instructions, which will be in each OSCE station.

I’m nervous about people watching me – what advice do you have on handling this?
Candidates are completing tasks that are simulations of the clinical environment that they work in. Be confident, smile, and try to forget that people are watching.

Are the examiners friendly?
Our examiners are dentists and dental care professionals who have been carefully selected based on their expertise and experience in their field. They are briefed to be fair and consistent – they will be friendly but won’t be able to offer any gestures to signal if candidates are completing a task correctly or not.

Do I need to wear my uniform to the examination centre?
Candidates should arrive in normal clothes and change into their clinical uniform and shoes, just as they would arrive to their place of work.

Candidates will be assessed on their professional appearance and behaviour. Footwear should offer protection against spills and be able to be wiped cleaned. Open-toe shoes, pumps/plimsolls and Croc-style shoes are not permitted. A full list is available on our website under Resources – Exam Guidance.

What are the different stations and how are the various tasks split?
There are 10 stations in total. There will be stations where candidates will be required to mix dental materials. The mixing instructions will always be available for the candidate to refer to in the exam.

However, candidates should take time to refer to instructions of materials used in their workplace It is not unknown for a dentist to like a material to be mixed in a specific way but, on many occasions, this is not how the instructions state it should be mixed. The OSCE marking guides for materials always follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

Some stations require candidates to select instruments and items for clinical use in the correct order relative to the procedure. Candidates should practise laying out items in the correct order in their practice.

Many of the OSCEs are split into separate tasks within the test. Candidates should read the scenario and then conduct the test carrying out the tasks separately.

The OSCEs are intended to provide an assessment in a simulated clinical setting. Candidates need to conduct themselves throughout the exam as if they are working in their own surgery.

What if I panic?
If a candidate panics during the exam they should remember to take a deep breath and carry on. If that doesn’t work, then the candidate should tell the examiner or helpers that they are starting to panic. Please bear in mind candidates will not receive additional time for stopping.

Is it true the examiners will not speak to me or answer my questions?
Very few stations within the exam require the candidate to interact verbally with the examiner. However, there will be stations where the candidate is required to give instructions/information to an actor playing the part of a patient or to the examiner directly. Candidates should be able to give instructions on the care of an appliance, such as a denture, crown or bridge.

They also need to be able to give pre-and post-operative advice for extractions. Candidates should take advantage of practising these skills in the workplace prior to sitting the exam in a timed environment. Candidates need to communicate with the actor as if they were a real patient. All stations are five minutes in length.

How long after my exam will I have to wait for results?
Once the exam has finished, NEBDN has to collate all of the marks. This is done via an online tablet application and sent for processing. All marks have to be ratified and this usually takes up to six weeks to complete.

All of NEBDN’s exam schedules are available on the website under the Qualifications area – this provides a rough estimation of dates for when the results go out.

Will I get feedback?
Each candidate will receive a pass or fail mark following their exam via postal service. NEBDN does not provide an overall pass mark percentage to any candidates, but they do offer a candidate performance report to those who fail the exam and there is a charge for this service.

The feedback report will highlight the stations where the candidate failed, including a list of any items they didn’t correctly complete. Candidates who fail automatically get enrolled to the next exam as long as their Record of Experience (RoE) is in date.

Is there anywhere online I can access resources that will help me to pass?
NEBDN upgraded its website in May and has dedicated pages of information and a new course provider search function.

Under the Qualifications tab – National Diploma, candidates will find a resources list with documents such as pass mark guidance, an exam schedule and candidate briefing for the OSCEs and much more.

Written by NEBDN and published in the Dental Nursing Journal September 2019 edition.

Written by
Jade Monori