'Bigging up' the CV

It may be tempting to stretch the truth in CVs, job applications and interviews – but the consequences can be severe

COMPETITION for prime positions in dentistry can be fierce so it is natural to want your CV to stand out from the crowd. However, it is important to resist the temptation to “big-up” a CV with exaggerations, outright lies or half-truths in order to enhance your chances.

Honesty and trust are at the very heart of professionalism and yet MDDUS case files feature numerous examples of healthcare professionals falling foul of this when constructing their CV. This can result in disciplinary or regulatory difficulties, or even potential patient safety issues.

Here are a few examples:

  • A dentist claimed vast experience in cosmetic dental treatment and gained a much sought-after position in a general dental practice. However, it soon became evident that her skills were not as described. Her contract was terminated and she was investigated by the General Dental Council (GDC).
  • A dentist claimed to have published papers in a journal which was subsequently found not to exist. He also claimed vast experience in oral surgery when he had quite limited experience. He was suspended from the GDC register.
  • An SHO claimed that he had done many complex procedures on his own in his previous hospital when that was far from the truth. He soon ran into difficulties and further information was sought from his previous employer which revealed the reality of his experience. He faced both disciplinary and regulatory investigations.
  • A dentist submitted a colleague’s work as her own as part of her postgraduate diploma requirements and added the qualification to her CV. She was suspended from the GDC register.

Similar examples can be found in other healthcare professions.

“Bigging up” a CV is not just limited to job applications. Sometimes the information provided to a patient can include an exaggeration of the clinician’s qualifications or experience.

For example, in order to persuade a patient of his expertise, one dentist stated that his diploma in implant dentistry was “gold standard” for training and the “highest postgraduate qualification”, when that was clearly not the case. He faced a GDC investigation.

Similarly, there is potential for a GDC investigation if a dentist uses the title “specialist” or describes themselves as a “specialist in…” when not included on the relevant specialist list. The GDC is clear that dentists who are not on their specialist list must not use titles which may imply specialist status, such as orthodontist, periodontist, endodontist and so on.

The same rule applies to dental care professionals (DCPs). There is currently no specialist list for DCPs, so the GDC warns they must not “mislead patients” by using titles which could imply specialist status, such as “smile specialist” or “denture specialist”.

Practitioners who are not on a specialist list may use the terms ‘special interest in..’, ‘experienced in..’ or ‘practice limited to..’.

Even what might be considered by some to be minor exaggerations can lead to investigation and possible sanctions.

The GDC’s guidance Standards for the dental team states: “You must justify the trust that your patients, the public and your colleagues have in you by always acting honestly and fairly in your dealings with them. This applies to any business or education activities in which you are involved as well as to your professional dealings.

“You must make sure you do not bring the profession into disrepute. You must make sure that any advertising, promotional material or other information that you produce is accurate and not misleading, and complies with the GDC’s guidance on ethical advertising.”

The GDC expands on this further in its indicative sanctions guidance:

• “Patients, employers, colleagues and the public should be able to rely on a dental professional’s integrity.”

• “Dishonesty, particularly when associated with professional practice, is highly damaging to public confidence in dental professionals as it undermines the trust that the public are entitled to have in registrants.”

• “Serious dishonesty in professional practice may include: … submitting or providing false references; … providing inaccurate or intentionally misleading information on a CV or other formal document…”

Although aimed at medics, the General Medical Council has equally pertinent advice in Good Medical Practice which states that doctors “must always be honest” about their experience, qualifications and current role, and when advertising services, they must make sure the information they publish is “factual and can be checked, and does not exploit patients’ vulnerability or lack of medical knowledge”.

Put simply, as with everything in life, honesty is the best policy. MDDUS has dealt with numerous cases of members facing regulatory or local disciplinary proceedings in regard to falsely claiming qualifications and experience in CVs or interviews.

The consequences of misleading or dishonest behaviour can be severe and could involve not only the employer but also the GDC. In such situations, sanctions can range from warnings to erasure.

ACTION POINTS

  • Avoid the temptation to stretch the truth in CVs, job applications and interviews.
  • Be certain the information provided in these contexts can be independently verified.

Liz Price is senior risk adviser at MDDUS