Are Your Team Members Ready to Step Up?
You depend on your team members for a lot. They help keep your practice on track and are vital to your success, which is why it’s so important for them to be cross trained and prepared to take over when one of their colleagues has to be out of the office.
Many dentists think team members can do this automatically, especially if they’ve been with the practice for a while. They’re experienced dental professionals, after all, and should be comfortable performing just about any task in the office. Unfortunately, unless you provide the proper training, that simply isn’t the case.
While many dentists think they have a cross trained staff, they really don’t. Maybe the Office Manager spent 10 minutes going over her responsibilities with everyone on the team, but that isn’t nearly enough to prepare someone to take on that role while she’s on vacation or an extended leave. With this system, no one is properly trained to step in for their colleagues; everyone is just expected to do everything effectively.
The problem is, when everyone is expected to do everything, no one is truly accountable for anything. This leads to confusion and excuses, like “I thought that was her responsibility” or “I didn’t know we did that” when tasks don’t get done.
Don’t get me wrong. Cross training offers many benefits to a practice. Of course you need team members to be able to fill in when their co-workers are out of the office. Cross training also gives employees a better understanding of the big picture, including how both their contributions and their co-worker’s contributions benefit the practice.
Yes, cross training offers many benefits - but for it to work, it has to be implemented correctly. That means first establishing a clear delineation of duties. You really need to make specific team members responsible for specific systems, and then provide them with the training they need to succeed.
As I mentioned in last week's article, starting with detailed job descriptions is key. Job descriptions outline exactly what each employee is responsible for, while also making your expectations clear. I suggest you sit down with team members to create these job descriptions as well as establish goals. This will help team members truly take ownership of their roles, encouraging them to excel. From there, it’s critical to provide proper training.
The single biggest contributor to practice inefficiency and mismanagement is a poorly trained team. And if you’re talking about business staff, the lack of guidance can cost you thousands of dollars every year, killing your bottom line and keeping your practice from meeting its full potential. I simply can’t stress enough how important it is to invest in training for your team members.
During my more than 30 years as a dental consultant, I’ve heard countless dentists tell me they simply don’t have time to train their staff. They’d rather have them learn on the job. Unfortunately, this leads to a lot of frustration and wasted time, and will likely cost the practice money in the long run. Proper training will make team members more confident in their skills and much more effective. I’ve also heard dentists use cost as an excuse to forego training. There’s plenty of affordable educational options available today, so this shouldn’t be a barrier either.
To get started, I recommend investing in job-specific instruction. This will make team members more effective, and will help you boost morale. Your employees will not only learn how to better perform their jobs, they’ll know you’re willing to help them grow as professionals - and that fosters loyalty.
You’ll notice huge improvements after this training is complete, but don’t stop there. Make ongoing internal training part of your practice culture. How, you ask? Implement training into your monthly staff meetings. Have team members educate each other about their systems and what they do each day. This might include your Scheduling Coordinator sharing how to make sure the dentist is never double-booked, or the hygienist giving pointers on how to best educate patients about their oral health and the services you provide to help them meet their goals.
No matter the topic, cross training will help ensure team members understand what role others play in the practice, preparing them to step in and help out whenever necessary.
Developing a foundation of thorough and professional training is crucial to make cross training an effective part of your practice. Employees will be more confident and effective in their roles, and more comfortable taking on other duties when the time comes.
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
Running on Time
It's important to run on time. Yes, things happen in our schedules that sometimes make it near impossible to stay on time. Patients show up late, periodic exams take longer than anticipated in hygiene, sometimes the doctor just cannot break away because of the procedure s/he is doing, thus causing the hygienist to wait for an exam and run late for the next patient. However, it is also common for appointments to run behind simply because they are not scheduled for the appropriate amount of time to begin with.
There is more to a hygiene appointment than just cleaning teeth. The health history should be verbally updated and any medications that are being taken by the patient or any recent hospital visits should be noted in the clinical notes. The patient should have a periodontal exam at every visit, including full mouth probing of the pockets and any recession noted, and tissue should be examined for any abnormalities. If the patient is due for radiographs based on the office policy, these should also be taken. Depending on your office policy and the state laws in your area, the patient may require a periodic exam.
This is usually all done prior to the actual hygiene appointment.
There is a difference between a periodontal maintenance appointment and a prophylaxis appointment. Not all hygiene appointments are a cleaning. The first thing the office should do is stop calling hygiene appointments a "cleaning" appointment. This is a medical appointment that consists of far more than a cleaning. We can all "clean" our own teeth at home.
If you call a periodontal maintenance appointment a cleaning appointment, the patient will expect to be charged for a cleaning and not a periodontal maintenance appointment. In addition to the difference in cost between a periodontal maintenance appointment and a cleaning appointment, some offices increase the time needed for the periodontal maintenance appointment.
Every time there is an additional procedure added to an appointment, the time for that appointment should be evaluated. If you are going to require another procedure to be done in an appointment, you should also look at how much time that procedures requires to be completed and make adjustments to the appointment time.
We don’t want the quality of care to suffer because of additional treatment being added to an already tight appointment time. Yes, two minutes makes a difference! If your hygienist is running two minutes late for every patient due to adding more to the appointment, then by the last patient they may be ten minutes late or more, depending how the appointments went.
It is also recommended that the doctor do the periodic exam at his/her convenience, and not wait until the end of the appointment. This helps prevent the hygienist from running late because of exams, and also allows the hygienist to go over treatment needed and answer any questions during the appointment - instead of trying to rush the patient out of the chair because time is up and the next patient is waiting.
The most important thing to consider is the patient and their perception of the hygiene appointment. Patients want to be seen on time, they deserve quality care, and any questions, comments or concerns should be addressed in a timely manner.
If any of this is missing, you may be losing more patients out the back door than you are getting in the front door. This is not a good way to have your practice grow. Running on time makes a difference to your patients, impacts staff stress level, and effects practice growth.
Interested in improving your hygiene department? Email email@example.com and ask us about our 1-Day Hygiene Training Program or call 877-777-6151
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