New Opportunity in Your New Practice
It’s a package deal. You just bought a practice from a retiring dentist. You get the patients, the equipment, the records, the parking spaces, the computer system…and the staff. Inheriting employees can be both a blessing and a curse. If you’re lucky, they will be instrumental in your success, thanks to their established relationships with patients, knowledge of practice systems, and openness to change. If you’re not so lucky, they will present a host of challenges, barriers and frustrations, particularly if you don’t establish your expectations from day one.
Taking over a practice requires change management. The dentist must share her/his vision, goals, and expectations for the practice and the team immediately - not a year or two after settling in. Helping employees to adapt to the change in leadership and helping the doctor determine if this team is the right fit for his/her practice starts with clear direction and written expectations from the doctor, as well as ongoing feedback. Otherwise, the dentist may well find him/herself in the middle of a power struggle.
Make a conscious effort to establish open and clear communication. Give your new staff plenty of direction and feedback. Establish expectations for employees early on, and if necessary, provide training to enable them to meet those expectations. Make sure they know how you want things done. Hold regular staff meetings to ensure that everyone is on the same page and can quickly address problems, concerns, and specific challenges as changes are being made.
Identify issues that could be problems with patients or among the team. If you are instituting a new collections policy or other major change that will affect patients, it’s imperative that the doctor and staff talk through a well-developed strategy for implementation and work through major changes step-by-step. This will enable doctor and team to anticipate resistance and plan to positively and proactively address it.
Create a problem-solving environment, so that employees feel comfortable speaking up and asking for direction, guidance, and assistance if they are having difficulty reaching a goal. If you become short-tempered, impatient, negative or cutting, staff will shut down and shut you out. Focus on building team commitment and communication up front and you will significantly reduce the pain of change and establish yourself as the leader of your practice and your team.
Next, gear up your external communication and marketing efforts to bring new patients into your new practice. Below are 12 tips to get your name out in your community. Best of all, many of them won’t cost you a dime.
Establishing a successful new practice with a new team in a new community takes time and real effort. If you would like help with your new acquisition, contact us at 877-777-6151 and inquire about our Practice Acquisition Program.
For more information on this topic, visit my blog: The Lighter Side
Interested in speaking to me about your practice concerns? Email firstname.lastname@example.org
What Does That Patient Really Want?
I have been working in dentistry for over 25 years and I am a huge fan of dentists! I have spoken with dentists and staff around the country and worked directly with great dentists in a general office setting. I have seen first-hand what wonderful services a dentist can provide for those in their care.
In a busy practice it is easy to forget what it means to a person to receive gentle, appropriate, and sometimes life-changing treatment. We are used to seeing patients in pain leave the office relieved and on their way to health. We are familiar with the blessings of nearly painless injections and fast, efficient treatment. We are accustomed to the beautiful cosmetic changes that our patients can receive, often altering their whole concept of comfort and attractiveness. Modern dentistry is a marvel and dentists are at its’ heart.
I have the pleasure right now of working with a dentist who is adept at putting patients at ease, and responding to questions and concerns that are challenging and difficult. He has mastered the technique of addressing what is actually the patient’s main issue; even when the way it is expressed is far from being plainly evident and may be rather “off-the-wall.” Yesterday I had a patient of record who was insistent in pursuing just what it was that can be seen in diagnostic radiographs. He was in my chair for a standard adult prophy and recall appointment and began our time together by telling me that he mistrusted all dental product advertising and would never use any manufactured toothpaste. In addition he told me that the ADA had been lying to patients for decades, and that most dental treatment was unnecessary and even dangerous! He asked me if I could see “crawling bugs” in the radiographs (4 BWS) taken of his teeth, and wanted to know if I could point them out to him. While he had several broken down and decayed teeth, he said that he had no pain and doubted he needed any restorations.
You can imagine that working with him was somewhat of a challenge. As someone who claimed to be in no discomfort, and who obviously distrusted dentistry in general, I was at a loss as to what had prompted him to return to our office. I began by telling him that “crawling bugs” would not be evident in an x-ray, even if a bacterial infection was present. I told him we would need a microscopic sample to view bacteria. He was skeptical. What is the point of an x-ray then, he wanted to know. I explained that x-rays show us structures and damage inside, around and under a tooth that are not visible from the “outside.” I used a favorite example of mine that a mechanic cannot figure out what is wrong with a car engine by just looking at the hood of a car.
We then progressed to the prophy. He had many large decayed areas in his teeth, of which I took photos. I expressed that I thought he would need several fillings and at least two crowns. I showed him these teeth in the photos, setting the stage as I always try to do for my dentist. In general his periodontal condition was not alarming. He was not difficult to work on, and we got along fine.
I was interested in what my dentist was going to say to him about his needed treatment, and the focus on “crawling bugs” my patient seemed to have. I talked to him in the hallway prior to his coming in to the treatment room to let him know what had been transpiring. Here is what happened:
My dentist greeted the patient with a hearty handshake and sat down facing him eye-to-eye. “It’s good to see you. What is going on?” he asked. My patient proceeded to talk about the “bugs” and the ADA, how none of his teeth hurt, and asked what might be recommended for the “holes” in his teeth.
“I see that you have had several amalgam fillings,” my dentist began.
My dentist mapped out a treatment plan, and the patient agreed on the spot. I was amazed! Instead of focusing on some of the more questionable issues the patient had, my dentist got to the heart of the matter. The patient wanted tooth-colored resins, not amalgam. He did not go into the pros and cons of how amalgam is viewed by the dental world. He did not argue about the existence or non-existence of “bugs” in amalgam. He did not try to change the patient’s worldview. Instead, he was able to see what the patient was really concerned about, and focus on that.
Dentists everywhere are accomplishing similar feats. Caring for patients is not just about the treatment itself, but also about what patients need and want. I am impressed by their ability to do so with skill, care and judgment. I work with a great dentist and am proud to be a part of a profession that makes such a difference in so many people’s lives.
Carol Tekavec RDH is the Director of Hygiene for McKenzie Management. Carol can improve your hygiene department in just one day of training “in your office.” Interested in knowing more about how to improve your hygiene department? Email email@example.com.
At the end of a recent coaching call, I asked the Doctor how he felt about our conversation. I wanted to know if our discussion had met his expectations, to assure we had accomplished the agenda set for the call. The answer I received caused me to pause. He said: “You’ve given me hope.”Touched by his words, I reflected on what had elicited such an inspirational feeling as “hope.” I was especially curious about his feedback as I had been firm in my challenge to him – it was time to put on his leadership “shoes” and deal with some difficult issues in his practice. On a parallel track with that, I also had encouraged him. I helped this Doctor to see his solution and he was motivated to take mindful action.
Do you know anyone who doesn’t like to be encouraged? We all need to be told that we are appreciated…that we are doing a good job…that we are important. This is the essence of hope. An emotional state which promotes the belief in a positive outcome. Leadership is about providing hope and encouragement to your team. Successful leaders tell employees when they are on the wrong path, and they simultaneously give them the energy to get on the right one. It is a compassionate action because it enables employees to learn and grow.
Think back over your life and remember a teacher, a coach, or a family member who encouraged you to try something new. They gave you confidence and awakened your courage. Or perhaps they reminded you of your positive qualities when you had gotten down on yourself. Those ‘encouragers’ built you up and instilled you with hope.
Encouragement is not the same as praise. Praise is positive feedback and it focuses on past action. Praise is not about improvement but about recognizing excellence. Encouragement is future-oriented. Instead of emphasizing something that has already been done, encouragement ignites a person’s internal motivation to take action. Encouragement is the process of building up another to do something that is difficult.
Your job as the dental leader is to encourage your employees to perform well. When you support them in their attempts to grow professionally they will develop stronger loyalty to you and the practice. This is a huge advantage in improving retention and reducing turnover. More and more, employees are looking for employers who can help them increase their knowledge and skills. Coming to work is about more than just a paycheck. It’s no longer enough to offer a conventional benefits package.
Shine a light on your peoples’ strengths and inspire them to exceed their current level of performance. Foster their learning and help them to experience the joy of improving themselves. Implement a mentoring program by pairing a newer employee with an experienced team member. Invest in employee training for any skills that are pertinent to their job and/or your practice. Develop tuition reimbursement criteria for post-secondary coursework. A better-educated workforce benefits your practice in productivity and profitability. Create a change of pace by giving employees a chance to work on a project that will benefit them. Advocate for exercise and physical fitness. Depending on your practice location, establish a walking group that gathers once or twice a week at lunch. Promote team involvement in community organizations and events.
Your employees are “internal” patients in a sense. You want the service and support to be the best it can be. Strive to keep your staff feeling as though their job is the best, and your practice is the most fulfilling work environment they could ever have. Obviously this starts with you, the dental leader. Look in the mirror and ask yourself what you need to do to have more enthusiasm, to achieve your goals, to take your practice to a new level. Call me if you need some encouragement. I’ll challenge you and I’ll give you hope.
Dr. Haller provides training for leadership effectiveness, interpersonal communication, conflict management, and team building. If you would like to learn more contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org
Interested in having Dr. Haller speak to your dental society or study club?Click here
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