11.13.09 Issue #401 Forward This Newsletter To A Colleague


Belle DuCharme CDPMA
Instructor/Consultant
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Hiring Techniques for Dental Managers

Staffing issues are still the number one concern for dental practices, with the recession woes of lost production coming in a close second. Even with fewer jobs available offering full-time hours and benefits, the average turnover in dental offices continues to be about every two years. Because it costs thousands of dollars to recruit, train and assimilate the new hire into the practice environment, it is critical that dentists and managers use diligence in hiring right. 

Working closely with many dental practices across the U.S., patterns are observed of repeated errors that can easily be prevented if the time is taken to change old habits in hiring. After analyzing hiring practices, the following represent a sampling of a common thread in many practices.

Practice #1
Hiring Misfire: Dr. Brown’s dental office had four different front office people in 18 months. The last front office person was fired because she threatened patients to pay via very nasty email messages. After several complaints about her attacks, she was quickly let go.   

Alter this course by communicating with your Business Coordinator about your philosophy regarding your patients and money. In Dr. Brown’s case, he had instructed all of the front office people to work on the overdue AR and “get the money” instead of setting up treatment plans and payment options for patients to follow. If the accounts are overdue, research the amounts to make sure the charges are legitimate and that there are signed treatment plans on file that show the patient understood what their cost would be and how it was expected to be paid. Do not threaten patients with collections, rather, create a billing system that patients understand before treatment is performed and stick to that. Collections are a last resort and not for every patient who has a balance. Many newly hired business coordinators leave the practice early in their positions because they are overwhelmed with negative feedback from disgruntled patients.

Practice #2
Hiring Misfire: Dr. Smith’s dental office hired without creating a written job description. The ad read: Dental Assistant/Front Office, PT but possibly FT in future. Dentrix knowledge a plus but will train. Must take x-rays and be a team player. Dr. Smith was told by the team that a “helper” was needed in the front and the back so the ad was placed on an internet site. Cindi, a dental assistant right out of school, was hired and was to be trained in the front office and the clinical area. Cindi decided quickly that she liked working in the front office better than the back and would say she was busy when asked to work as a dental assistant. The business coordinator loved that Cindi did the confirming, scanning, new patient packets and all the other miscellaneous tasks that she disliked and would say to the clinical staff that she needed Cindi more than they did. A dispute arose over where and when Cindi was needed and tension became noticeable to Dr. Smith.

Alter this course by having a written job description for all staff and especially for a new hire with a position that was just created in the practice. Spell out specifically in the job description what the duties and hours spent at each task will be. Goals for training and learning new tasks should have a time line so that the new hire can become accountable and not say “no one showed me that.” When job duties are not spelled out it gives the new hire a feeling that they can choose.

Practice #3
Hiring Misfire: Dr. Jane was a hard working, self sacrificing dentist with a new practice, and wanted to hire people like her. When she worked through lunch and often past closing time, she felt good, but her staff was exhausted and stressed. They liked her personality so they never said anything. The newly hired second dental assistant complained after the first week and then quit after the second month when she noticed no overtime paid on her paycheck. Dr. Jane dismissed her as being a trouble maker and started her search for a new assistant.

Alter this course by knowing the employment laws in your state and adhering to them in your practice. If not, it is only a matter of time before someone will report the unfair practices.  Be realistic in the expectations of your staff’s ability to perform well, and respect the law in regard to nutrition breaks. Ask each team member in private if they are willing to work overtime, and if so how often.

If you would like more information on McKenzie Management’s Advanced Training Programs  to improve the performance of your team, email training@mckenziemgmt.com.

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