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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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