How Many Assistants Do You Really Need?
You just found out one of your three assistants is moving out of state, and you’re in a panic. The thought of going through the hiring process is overwhelming and you know you won’t be able to find a replacement before she leaves.
Yes, this can be a stressful situation, but before you start putting together that want ad, take a step back and think about if you really need to hire another assistant. The truth is, reducing the number of assistants in your office might actually streamline your practice and reduce unnecessary stress.
To determine how many assistants you actually need, start by asking yourself these questions:
- How many doctor patients do I see each day?
Let’s address that last question. Say you have three treatment rooms. You likely think you should be using all three, but that isn’t the case. The number of treatment rooms you use depends on your workload, how many days you’re scheduled in advance, how many assistants you have and the mix of procedures you offer. It also depends on how busy you want to be.
Many dentists run from room to room all day when it really isn’t necessary. If you’re only booked a week and a half out, for example, there’s no need to take on the stress that comes with a hectic, fast-paced schedule. You can simply train your Scheduling Coordinator to schedule patients further out. This will keep you from rushing around all day, reducing unnecessary stress and enabling you to spend more time educating your patients and addressing their concerns.
Another benefit? Your coordinator can ask patients if they’d like to be contacted if there’s a change in the schedule. The ones who say yes should be put on a “priority list” that your coordinator can turn to when a broken appointment needs to be filled.
Now it’s time to streamline your schedule so you can work with fewer assistants. Here are a few tips:
- If the doctor is OK with giving injections alone, I suggest you overlap each patient 10 minutes at the beginning and end of each appointment. Spend the last 10 minutes with the patient while the assistant seats your next appointment. If he/she’s not comfortable giving injections alone, don’t overlap the appointments. Instead, schedule one after the other with no breaks. Just make sure you communicate with your Scheduling Coordinator so the right amount of time is scheduled for each appointment.
- Consider fabricating crown preps chairside to reduce the time needed for these appointments.
- Work out of fewer treatment rooms. If you’ve been working out of three, reduce that number to two, assuming appointments are overlapped by 10 minutes.
- Consider building in 30 minutes a day of admin time so your assistant can perform equipment maintenance, order supplies and complete other necessary tasks.
Having fewer assistants will also force you to improve practice efficiencies. You’ll find your assistants are more in tune with what’s going on in the practice, making them more productive and much more efficient. And if your Scheduling Coordinator is spreading appointment times out, you’ll have fewer open slots to fill. The “priority list” you asked your coordinator to create also makes it easier to fill broken appointments, reducing the stress and chaos they bring to your day.
I know the thought of losing a team member can be scary, but as you see it doesn’t have to be. It might even be a good thing, leading to a more streamlined practice and efficient team. Take the time to determine how many assistants you actually need and you may find you’re better off with fewer. Work with your current team members to improve efficiencies and you’ll soon see an increase in productivity and your bottom line – and a reduction in stress.
Looking for more guidance? Contact McKenzie Management and we’ll help put you on the right track.
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