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Front Desk

by Stephanie Sisk

CDS dentists have many roles in their dental offices. You are doctors, first and foremost, but you are also business managers, new business development leaders and team-builders. This online column will help you stay on top of the latest dental trends and resources as you juggle all of your roles.

  • July 6, 2018

Investing in your staff pays off for your practice, patients

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As any dentist knows, a topnotch staff keeps the practice running smoothly. That mix of smart hires, high expectations, clear procedures and respected leadership keeps the practice on a successful road.

But smart dentists also know there’s more to the formula than that. In the important mix of patient satisfaction, solid office procedures, financial planning and clinical expertise are the intangible considerations: your satisfaction and happiness as well as that of your employees.

“Many dentists believe staff members can determine to a great extent our day-to-day stress levels, as well as the practice’s ultimate success,” wrote Dr. George Salem in an article for Dental Economics. “In reality, we determine these aspects.

“It is our ability to educate and, more importantly, to motivate our staffs that actually determines stress levels and practice prosperity. Yet we will analyze and study various bonding agents ad infinitum and not spend one moment developing and motivating the people around us who can have a profound effect on our practice and our lives,” Dr. Salem wrote.

One important first step is to build an environment that promotes learning. SmartCompany, an online publication aimed at entrepreneurs, encourages a “skills audit” to uncover special talents employees could use in new ways. Promoting the value of polishing skills and learning new ones instills a positive workplace that builds up the staff and fights boredom, frustration and ultimately staff turnover.

Plans for staff development and satisfaction start with recognizing all people respond to recognition. And staff will appreciate encouragement and opportunities from the dentist to learn new skills and study new trends in dentistry and dental office management through conferences and in-house training.

Jeff Miller, who writes on training and performance for business consultancy Insperity, advised that an important first step is communication with employees, from chairside to the front desk.

“Don’t assume you know your employees’ skill level and career aspirations,” he said. “Talk with each of your team members to get a better understanding of what their career goals are. Some employees may already have development goals in mind, but don’t know how to get started or if the company will support those plans. Other employees may not realize you see potential in them or need encouragement to reach for the next step in their career.”

Anne Nugent Guignon, a registered dental hygienist in the Houston area and an ARDH Mentor of the Year recipient, wrote on RDHmag.com that tapping into curiosity and a desire to broaden and enhance skills yields multifaceted satisfaction, no matter the job title.

While professional development takes time, the reward is an investment, she said “in the form of a new business opportunity, financial gain, recognition within your peer group, respect from coworkers, increased career satisfaction, increased intellectual curiosity, improved communication skills, enhanced clinical skills, more interest in your work and greater self-respect.“

In other words, all the same benefits a dentist derives through similar professional development.

Dr. Salem concurred that staff development yields far-reaching rewards.

“Staff members actually want to be trained and motivated to positively impact the practice and their compensation,” he wrote. “When we as dentists and business owners evade this important responsibility, we forfeit so many of the benefits that a cohesive, highly focused staff can provide. … We also forfeit our responsibilities as mentors to our staff members in the professional and personal growth arenas. In fact, one of the great pleasures I have in my role as an employer is the cultivation of talents and work ethics in staff members that go far beyond their initial expectations.”

Photo by Aleksandar Georgiev, copyright istockphoto.com.


The views expressed in this column are those of the writer and not necessarily the opinions of the Chicago Dental Society.

CDS presents Front Desk, a column addressing issues facing dentists and staff members experience in the office.

Front Desk is prepared by Stephanie Sisk, a freelance journalist.

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