4 Things Every Associate Should Ask Before Joining a Practice
There’s no doubt that senior dentists and the associates they hire often come into the new arrangement with very different expectations. Associates are looking for a mentor who will help them improve their practice management and clinical skills. They want to know the practice they’ve joined shares their philosophy of care and always puts the patient first. These young dentists want stability without the pressure to bring in a lot of money right away, and are excited about the benefits that working with a senior dentist offers.
Hiring dentists, on the other hand, want to find someone who will solve all their problems. They’re so busy they can barely keep up and are ready to reduce their workload. They have visions of the new associate stepping into the role seamlessly, taking on management responsibilities, attracting new patients and helping the practice grow its bottom line.
You can see where these different sets of expectations might cause trouble. That’s why it’s so important for hiring doctors and potential associates to make sure they’re on the same page before entering into an agreement. Both sides need to be honest and ask themselves some tough questions to ensure they understand each other’s priorities and objectives.
I know this can be difficult, especially for a new dentist fresh out of dental school. To help make it easier, I’ve put together a list of four key questions every potential associate should ask the hiring dentist before joining a practice.
1. What is your approach to treatment planning? Make sure you’re comfortable with treatment planning procedures and the practice’s overall philosophy of care. Is there a Treatment Coordinator or does the dentist handle case presentations? What is the case acceptance rate? What type of patient education is offered? The answers to these questions will help you determine if the practice is right for you.
2. Is the practice saturated or struggling? Of course associates want to join a practice that is saturated, which means the patient base is made up of between 1,500 and 1,800 active patients who visit the hygienist at least once a year. Why is this so important? There’s a good chance many of these patients have unscheduled treatment, giving you the opportunity to take on a variety of cases while also boosting production.
Another benefit? You’ll likely find a fair number of patients who are overdue for their professional hygiene appointment, giving you an opportunity to meet new patients and start building relationships.
3. What kind of feedback can I expect from you? Your time as an associate should help you enhance your skills and become a better clinician. That won’t happen if the senior dentist expects you to hit the ground running with little direction or feedback. Instead, look for a dentist who is open to serving as a teacher and mentor.
I recommend meeting with the senior dentist weekly for the first six months or so. These meetings are great learning opportunities and will give you the chance to discuss difficult cases, patient concerns and management issues. This will help keep communication open between you and the senior dentist. Any concerns that come up can be addressed promptly and you won’t be left guessing about how you’re progressing. Both you and the hiring doctor will be on the same page, which is key to a successful arrangement.
You and the hiring doctor should also meet once a month to review key practice indicators. This includes accounts receivables and production reports.
4. What happens if the arrangement simply doesn’t work out? No matter how much research you do before signing on or how hard you try to keep communication open, sometimes these arrangements just don’t work. This is disappointing, but it’s something both you and the hiring dentist should prepare for from the start. Make sure the agreement you sign includes a timeframe for leaving the practice, which is usually 30 to 60 days after you inform the hiring dentist of your intention to leave. This gives you enough time to complete most of the cases you’ve started.
Remember it’s important to leave on good terms, no matter the situation. Don’t burn any bridges. Finish your time and then move on.
Becoming an associate affords you a great opportunity to learn from an experienced dentist while you enhance your skills, but don’t just jump at the first offer you get. Take the time to ask the right questions and make sure it’s a good fit. This will save both you and the hiring doctor and lot of time and frustration down the road, and will help get your career started on the right track.
For additional information on this topic and more, visit my blog: The Lighter Side
Interested in speaking to me about your practice concerns? Email firstname.lastname@example.org
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