Make More Money
You want more money. Welcome to the club. For you it’s different, though. You reason that you are special. After all, you are the doctor’s right hand: the dental assistant. You are hardworking. You are loyal. And you are reliable. You keep the doctor on schedule. You laugh at his bad jokes. You tell her she looks great when she worries about her weight. What’s more, you haven’t asked for anything extra for a very long time.
Admittedly, many dental assistants have felt lucky to even have a job, and most didn’t want to push the salary issue in light of the fact that many practices were suffering the effects of the Great Recession. But things do seem to be getting better, and you’ve convinced yourself that the time is right to raise the money issue. My advice: STOP! Before you broach this tough issue, make sure you are prepared.
First, gather as much information as you can about dental assistant salaries in your area. In 2011, nationwide, the median salary per hour was $18.50 for certified dental assistants (full-time and part-time) and $16.49 for non-certified assistants. According to PayScale.com, the average median salary today is just over $30,000, and hourly wages can range from $10-$20.
In January, Dental Assisting Digest released the results of its survey on dental assistant wages. Rather than asking for specifics from survey participants, this year’s questionnaire was relatively simple in that the publication merely asked dental assistants to report if they made more or less than $22 per hour. Of the 875 responses received, only 165 reported wages above the $22 mark. That leads me to believe that the median wage for dental assistants remains in the $18-$19 range. The survey revealed that those making more typically reside in states that have traditionally reported higher earnings from assistants in the past: Arizona, California, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, and those with significantly higher salaries likely have several years of experience or other factors contributing to their wages. So, your first order of business is to do your homework and determine where your current pay ranks compared to other dental assistants in your area.
Next, take a good hard look at your role in the practice. If you’re making the most of it, you are truly instrumental to the dentist’s success and the profitability of the practice. You are the dental care ambassador, the treatment liaison, and, in some cases, the patient advocate. If you are maximizing these roles, you should be able to leverage your impact on profitability, which is critical to your ability to earn more money. Let me explain.
Look for opportunities to make the most of what you have to offer, starting with your skills. In the months ahead, make it your professional goal to assume responsibility for every procedure, patient interaction, and staff matter legally allowable in your state. This will likely require (a) a plan of action in which you obtain the necessary continuing education (b) the opportunity to perform the procedure(s) with the doctor’s oversight, and (c) taking responsibility for the expanded functions you’ve learned, thereby freeing up more of the doctor’s time to focus his/her attention on higher value procedures.
For example, most states allow dental assistants to remove a temporary crown, clean the tooth and try the permanent crown. However, often the dentist is performing these procedures, which is clinically inefficient. Improving clinical efficiency improves the delivery of care and fully maximizes each hour of doctor and staff time. Translation: More money in the practice.
Next, take a good, hard look in the mirror and ask yourself some direct questions. How well do you follow instructions? Has the doctor attempted to teach you a specific procedure multiple times, but you just don’t seem to get it? Are you cooperative or confrontational? What is the quality of your work product? Do others have to come in and fix your mistakes or cleanup after you? Do you take the initiative to solve problems immediately or do you routinely hand them off because it’s “not your job”? Are you spending too much time text messaging or cruising Facebook?
What steps do you take daily to improve your specific area, the operation of the practice, and the patient experience? Do you communicate openly and respectfully with the doctor, your teammates, and the patients? What steps are you taking to reduce practice expenses, save time, increase revenues and improve treatment acceptance?
Next week, do this and make yourself indispensible.
For more information on this topic, visit my blog: The Lighter Side
Interested in speaking to me about your practice concerns? Email email@example.com
Work Hard Play Hard - Is Your Life in Balance?
Abraham Maslow’s theory of Hierarchy of Needs is based on his model of the hierarchy of human motivational needs, and apparently is one of the most widely accepted theories. I have seen references and attended workshops for years that discuss Maslow’s hierarchy in reference to needs that must be met before the next level of “humanness” can be obtained. Wikipedia offers this synopsis:
The needs, listed from basic (lowest, earliest) to most complex (highest, latest) are as follows:
So you might be asking yourself, how does Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs fit into Work Hard Play Hard - Is Your Life in Balance? It makes sense that if the most basic needs of physiological and safety/security are not met, one has a very difficult time achieving balance in life and the ability to work hard/play hard.
65% of Americans surveyed by Forbes on May 18, 2012 indicated that they were either somewhat unsatisfied (21%) or unsatisfied (44%) with their employment. Seeing the result of this survey made me think: Why are so many employees unhappy with their jobs?I want to believe that most of us feel we have the first three levels of hierarchy of needs met, definitely the first two. In order to have the balance in life we all desire and talk about so much, you need to “Manage yourself, not your time.” For this to occur, we have to identify what are our TIME STEALERS. You see, if we manage ourselves properly we allow ourselves time for working hard and playing hard. Take a look and see how many Time Stealer interruptions you have in your daily work environment causing you to feel stress and be unproductive.
To list a few: telephone, personal visitors, meetings, tasks you should have delegated, procrastination and indecision, acting with incomplete information, dealing with team members, crisis management (firefighting), unclear communication, inadequate technical knowledge, unclear objectives and priorities, lack of planning, stress and fatigue, inability to say “No” and desk management and personal disorganization.
Before you read on, take your own personal time survey on the above Time Stealers. You are typically at work for 8 hours. Breakdown each of the above into minutes and list how much time in a day is put into each of those areas. Now total them up. You will be shocked at how much time is wasted that you have control over! Now, if you work the front desk as an example, the telephone is a necessity to your job role - but have you created an environment where the telephone is not being used properly? Another example is if the doctor is always running late with patients. Doing a time study in the chair is highly recommended to see where we are wasting time. Let’s take a look at some time management tips:
Tip: After scheduling becomes a habit, then you can adjust it. It’s better to be precise at first. It is easier to find something to do with extra time then to find extra time to do something. Most importantly, make it work for you. A time schedule that is not personalized and honest is not a time schedule at all.
Tip: Now that you know how you spend most of your time, take a look at it. Think about what your most important things are. Do you have enough time? Chances are that you do not. The following are some tips on how to schedule and budget your time when it seems you just don’t have enough.
Tips for Saving Time:
Part 2 – next time we will talk about qualities of leadership and delegation.
Interested in speaking to Gene about your practice concerns? Email firstname.lastname@example.org
Treatment Acceptance and Perceived Need
Clinical findings in diagnosis often point to necessary treatment in the eyes of the dentist and dental team, but can be thwarted by the patient’s perception. It can be frustrating to the treating dentist when he/she hears that the patient did not appoint and wants to “think about it.” “Why do they want to think about it? Is there something we left out?”
Dentists are excellent about explaining dentistry to patients, and if they aren’t they have marvelous educational sources like CAESY or GURU software, plus trained treatment coordinators, flip charts, brochures, models, websites and so forth. It is often not the educational process that is lacking, but rather the perception of the patient that gets in the way. “Need” for some patients is not based in the present - rather it is in the future when there is pain or the crisis of a broken tooth. Why is that? Because at that point the treatment becomes a want, with the patient saying: “I want to be out of pain.”
Because it is difficult to measure this factor, it can be overlooked as an indicator of practice success. Patients often do not think they “need” what you are recommending until it becomes a “want” for them. This want could take some time to develop. Many patients have become accustomed to pain and cold sensitivity, an uneven and unattractive bite, stains, chipped teeth, large broken down restorations with cracks and recurrent decay. To them it is a reality that is not a major concern in their life.
By presenting the facts about a patient’s condition without injecting the word “need” you give control over to the patient to decide whether this need is a want. Building rapport and trust with the patient has a lot to do with whether the patient is treated by you. You may illustrate the need and the patient wants it, but doesn’t trust you enough to have the treatment in your practice. Often patients agree to and accept the treatment, but then they don’t appoint. You may or may not find out later that they have gone to a different provider for their care.
Focus first on the referral source of your patient. If it’s a patient of record, check to see what treatment you did for that patient. This will give you clues to the future expectations of the patient. Secondly, pay careful attention to the chief concern that motivated the patient to call you initially. It could be a chipped tooth or yellow teeth or a consultation about veneers. Whatever it is, make sure the patient has been satisfied in this area as success with the chief concern paves a road to trust and further treatment acceptance.
For some patients, the decision making process takes more time than the dental team allows. Follow-up and an invitation to return for further inquiry about the proposed treatment is very important, along with the patient bringing another family member who may be involved in the decision making process. Treatment acceptance is much lower in practices that have no protocols in place to follow-up with patients that have been presented treatment plans and given written presentations.
I use this illustration based on true events to drive home my point. A dentist known to be excellent at creating beautiful smiles with veneers is referred to a new patient by another dental professional. The patient is welcomed and given a treatment presentation and released to go home and call back with her schedule to set appointments. The patient gets busy at work and with family and forgets to call back. Several weeks go by and the patient decides to get another opinion from her friend’s dentist. She decides to go with her friend’s dentist. The reason she stated is: “The first office never called me back.” The strange part of this story is that the patient had the cash in full to pay for her dental care.
There are many important elements in creating the perception of need that translates into want for your patients. The Treatment Acceptance Training Course was designed to give the Dentist, Treatment Coordinator, Business Coordinator or anyone who presents treatment plans to patients the tools to develop trust and rapport - which equals not just treatment acceptance but treatment completion.
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