Membership information 03 7887 6760
Dentolegal advice 03 7887 6760

Supervising others

12 February 2019
Mentoring can be great for career progression, job satisfaction and skill development but are you exposed to more risk?

Dental Protection often gets asked by members whether they require additional indemnity when it comes to advising or supervising their professional colleagues. This
could be through an informal arrangement or as a formally recognised mentor. Following on from this, another commonly asked question is whether the member is then liable for any acts by the person they are are mentoring.

Dental practitioners often supervise students and graduates transitioning into the dental professional world. The Malaysian Dental Association (MDA) offers a Student Mentorship Program.

Every individual practitioner has a duty of care to their patients, but there is also one in a mentoring relationship. So, while each individual practitioner has responsibility for patients in whose treatment they are involved, the mentor should be aware that there could be assumed an ethical dimension even when they are not treating the patient personally. While it does depend on the relationship between the practitioner and the mentee, the mentor may, in some respects, have a limited responsibility for the outcomes.


The best way forward in a “true” student-mentorship program is to have clear documentation confirming that the person being supervised is autonomous and working independently. This would mean that regardless of advice and guidance provided by the mentor, it would be very difficult to demonstrate responsibility for treatment on their part.

It may be helpful to consider the following when approaching a student-mentorship relationship:

• expectations and outcomes agreed upon before any supervision begins
• frequency of sessions, where they will take place and how long for
• professional boundaries.

In any case, a supervisor should never assume that they cannot be considered partly responsible if there are any adverse outcomes from the treatment given by the person being supervised. A supervisor could end up being drawn into investigations if the person being supervised feels that the end result is due to advice or guidance provided by the mentor. Dentists participating in Dental Council mandated supervision of another
dentist need to be particularly careful that they are fully aware of the Council’s requirements of that arrangement and seek advice from Dental Protection should they feel they are exposed to difficulties or risk related to their supervision of the
practitioner concerned.


Dental Protection views a supervising role as part of professional activity and additional subscriptions are not charged. This is unless you have chosen your membership in a non-clinical category that excludes any involvement with patients.

Implant dentistry is an area that supervisors are sometimes called in to assist with when junior colleagues are working on their first cases. As a practitioner, if you are supervising a colleague who is placing implants, then you must both be appropriately registered by the Dental Council and have adequate and appropriate indemnity protection.

Members are welcome to turn to us for advice and support when it comes to taking on a mentoring role, however, we would not normally extend this advice or support to the organisation or individual they may be providing the supervising service for.