10.20.06 - Issue # 241
Key Policies
Failure to Delegate
Patient Communications

Spell out the 3 Ps –
Policies, Procedures, and Practices

by Sally McKenzie CEO
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It’s the end of a very long day. You scarcely have enough energy to open the car door. Jessica, your assistant, asks if she can take a week off next month. You tell her that you think that will be okay. Jessica interprets this as a “yes” and will book her trip to Cancun that evening.

A few weeks later, you realize that both your assistants requested the same week off, although you don’t remember specifically giving approval you vaguely recollect some loose discussions about using some vacation time. Now what? You don’t have an established policy for requesting time off, and now you’re facing a real dilemma. Like too many other practices, you don’t realize the value of articulating key employee policies and procedures in an employee handbook until you’ve felt the consequences of its absence.

The process of creating the handbook can be very helpful to dentists in defining their leadership and giving serious consideration to which policies are most useful and practical in the dental practice setting. What’s more, it can be a constructive tool in setting the tone for a positive environment in which each member is viewed as a valuable contributor to the dental team. Rather than an extensive list of do’s and don’ts the document can encourage growth, improve morale and help employees to understand the doctor’s practice philosophy so that they can more effectively carry that philosophy out in their day-to-day activities.

The handbook may cover as many or as few issues as the doctor chooses, but would probably serve its purpose most effectively if it included some of the key practice policies, among them:

  • Practice overview and doctor’s practice philosophy – The employee handbook is an excellent place to spell out your practice philosophy and define your guiding principles, such as ensuring patient satisfaction, the importance of doctor and employee commitment to excellence, your desire to see each member of the team lead by example, etc.
  • Equal opportunity statement – This states that the employee’s religion, age, sex, or race will not influence hiring, promotion, pay, or benefits in any way.
  • Definition of the work schedule – This indicates that all employees are to be at their assigned work areas and ready to provide care for patients at a certain time. The practice may want to indicate that staff are expected to be in the office and report for the daily meeting 15 minutes or more in advance of the first appointment.
  • Salary/payment policies – This details when the employee can expect to be paid, how wage increases are handled, overtime, etc.
  • Professional Code of Conduct – This section clarifies the practices expectations regarding employee dress, timeliness, use of tobacco, alcohol, and drugs, as well as policies regarding personal phone calls and personal visits.
  • Performance review policy – This section explains exactly how and when employee performance is evaluated, including samples of performance evaluation forms. It may also spell out the practice’s policy on progressive discipline and unsatisfactory performance including a copy of the employee warning notice form. And it may list those infractions that could result in termination of employment, such as criminal activity, dishonesty, poor performance, security or confidentiality breaches, absenteeism, practice policy violations, health and safety threats, defiance of the established dress code, etc.  
  • Time off policies -  This section explains policies on vacation, parental/maternity leave, illness, military, funeral, personal, jury duty,  holidays, personal days, etc. If staff are expected to complete a written Vacation Request and Approval form or Request for Time off Form, include samples in the handbook, so that employees are familiar with the documents.

You may also want to include a section that outlines employee benefits provided as well as supply brochures and other written materials from your insurance company that further explain employee benefit options.

Numerous models, software packages, and books are available that can help dentists in developing an employee handbook. Once you’ve completed a draft, be sure to have your attorney review it before distributing to employees to ensure that it complies with employment laws that are specific to your state.

The handbook can and should be a positive and motivating tool that enables employees to understand exactly what your expectations are and what steps they can take to ensure that they meet, if not exceed, those expectations.

Interested in speaking to Sally about your practice concerns? Email her at sallymck@mckenziemgmt.com.

Interested in having Sally speak to your dental society or study club? Click Here.

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Dr. Nancy Haller
Dentist Coach
McKenzie Management
coach@ mckenziemgmt.com
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The trouble with the rat race is even if you win you’re still a rat.
-Lily Tomlin

How busy are you?
Can’t get everything done?
Are you putting in longer and longer hours for uncompensated work?
No time for long range planning and strategy?

Let’s face facts. You have A LOT to do. Your responsibilities extend to patients, employees, family, and community. It’s likely that you’re good at organizing. An effective task-master. You do things well and you get things done. But if the weight of your workload has become burdensome, it may be that you are living to work…rather than working to live.

Time is a precious commodity. There is never enough. The solution is learning to delegate. In fact it’s something that most people are never taught. After all your success has depended on what you did. Now find yourself with employees reporting to you. So get them more involved in the work.

It may be that you understand this on an objective or cognitive level but you’re worried that things won’t get done correctly. On the opposite side of the spectrum, delegation doesn’t mean abdicating authority. Ultimately you are still responsible for what happens in your office. The goal is to find ways to get things done without having to do it all yourself.

The first step is facing your fears about delegating, and evaluating those beliefs rationally. Here are some common reasons leaders fail to delegate.

  • I don’t have time to explain this to someone else.

Teaching and sharing information can feel like one more thing you have to do. But the short tem investment of time will pay off in big long term dividends. Train your employees so they know what you want them to do. Certainly this doesn’t make sense if the task or project is unique, something you will only do once. But if the work is performed on an ongoing basis, then it makes sense to teach someone else to do it. Once they are up to speed, you will begin to reap the rewards in time saved.

  • I can do this better than anyone in my office.

This probably is true. You’re successful because you do things well. But ask yourself – and be honest – do you have unrealistic standards? Frequently it’s more important that the task is done, not that it’s done perfectly. When you delegate to your staff, you empower them. By teaching and developing them, you are instilling trust. Trust breeds loyalty and loyalty leads to greater productivity.

  • I don’t want to give up control.

There are different levels of delegation. You don’t want to relinquish control for the most important tasks. For example, you might ask an employee to research the new billing software you are interested in purchasing. Tell them what you need to know and let them do the footwork then report back to you. Even better, have your employee evaluate the costs and benefits of different vendors and provide you with their recommendation for moving forward. Of course you want to set a time limit and check on the project periodically.

  • I can’t afford to hire someone else. 

Although practice overhead might be high, consider the amount of money you could generate if you had more time. Spending money actually can make you money. Hour for hour, your fees are much greater than an administrative employee. Think about what it really costs you to do inventory of the supply room. Now that’s expensive! In the long run, hiring someone to free you of time makes good financial sense. Plus you’ll have the added benefits of more time to spend with your family or friends. That can make a big difference in the quality of your life.

The productivity in your office is the direct result of consistent training and coaching. Unless you delegate tasks to employees, your team will become inefficient and demoralized. Develop the skills in your staff. You’ll do them and yourself a favor!

Next article: How to delegate effectively

Dr. Haller is available to coach you to higher levels of performance in your practice. Contact her at coach@mckenziemgmt.com.

Interested in having Nancy speak to your dental society or study club? Click Here.

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Jean Gallienne RDH BS
Hygiene Consultant
McKenzie Management
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Teach Your Patients Well

We have all worked with new employees or have been a new employee ourselves. There is a time when training has to occur in order for the new person to perform, behave, and be responsible for their actions.

The same has to happen with our patients. It is recommended that every office have protocols and policies in place, not only for the employees, but also for the patients. They also need to be aware of what to expect and what is expected of them as a patient.

For instance, most offices expect their patients to call at least one to two days in advance if they are going to cancel their appointment. We expect our patients to be on time and to respect our time, because we run on time and respect their time.

This is where the training comes in to play. As we all know, it takes time to be trained as a new employee and it takes time to train an employee. The same is true of our patients. Unfortunately, many offices do not take the time and money to train their employees until there is a problem. The same happens when it comes to patients.

We as health care providers are not only doing our patients a service by training them, we are also doing ourselves a service. Many times it is less work to train them correctly from the beginning than to correct them in the future. Training the patients to perform in the manner we wish is the job of every team member.

Whenever a new patient is in the hygiene chair for the first time, it is a great idea to go over with the patient what will happen. Not only at that initial visit with the hygienist, but also go over what to expect at future appointments. One example of this would be, “Mr. Jones, today I will be providing a professional cleaning appointment for you. Because you just had your exam with the doctor, there are a few things that we do on a routine basis at your professional cleaning appointment that I will not be doing today because the doctor just did them at your exam appointment. The first thing we do is an oral cancer exam, check for cavities and periodontal disease, gum pocket depth, and once a year we will take x-rays to check for cavities.” Tell them how long their hygiene appointment will usually be.

Doing this at the beginning of the relationship allows the patient to know what to expect of you. This also creates a need for them to return, because they now realize that they are having more than, “just a cleaning”.

Yes, the patient may forget every word you told them, but when they come in for the next appointment, and you inform them of what you are going to do that day it will all come back to them. This helps with treatment acceptance.

When the patient calls to make their appointment or the office calls to make their professional hygiene appointment, the Scheduling Coordinator will remind the patient of what is going to happen during their appointment and the amount of time needed so it is not a surprise to them.

There are so many times, we as hygienists, can drop a seed in the patient’s ear by casually mentioning something to them. When we take the explorer or probe out to check around the mouth before we get started for any areas of concern. Just talking out loud to ourselves and to the patient about what we see. “Well, Mr. Jones everything looks pretty good, but you have some large fillings on the last two teeth in the upper right that are getting pretty old that I want Doctor to look at today.”

At the last quadrant of root planing, explain to the patient the difference between a cleaning and a periodontal maintenance appointment so the patient is more aware of what to expect. This is a great way to help relieve them of the fears they may have. Many times, the thing we fear the most is the fear created within ourselves because we do not know what to expect.

Making our patients more aware and educated about our office procedures, policies, and expectations right from the beginning is a great way to help our patients, the practice, and ourselves.

Interested in knowing more about how to improve your hygiene department? Email hygiene@mckenziemgmt.com.

Interested in having Jean speak to your dental society or study club Click Here.

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McKenzie Management
A Division of The McKenzie Company, Inc.
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La Jolla, CA 92037
Email info@mckenziemgmt.com
1.877.777.6151
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