Start Your Associateship Off Right With These 5 Tips | Baltimore Dental Sales
Dental Practice Sales & Transitions
Beginning a new job, let alone your first as a new dentist, can be nerve-wracking. It is important, however, that your patients and staff know that you are in control right from the start. The key to gaining their trust and ensuring their acceptance of treatment is to project confidence. Although you may be shaking in your shoes, keep in mind that you have worked hard to reach this point.
As a result of your work, your dental school granted you a degree. You have been licensed by your state. You were hired by the practice owner because they believed in your abilities. It’s now time to demonstrate all of that to your patients.
You can take ownership of your operatory by following these five steps.
Don’t wait until your first day to start
Prepare yourself for success before you even sign the contract. Be sure you and your new boss share the same expectations regarding your responsibilities by asking the right questions. You should understand your pay, benefits, etc., so you can focus on dentistry.
In the period between signing a contract and your first day, work with your new boss to develop an integration plan. As a result of this exercise, you and the practice will be set up for success from the very beginning. As part of your integration plan, you should consider credentialing, licensure, and getting to know the staff, as well as understanding the practice’s flow, processes, and technology.
Patients should be notified in a timely manner. The senior doctor should write a letter (and post it on the practice’s website and/or social channels) explaining why you’re the perfect fit for the practice. It is always a good idea for the senior doctor to introduce you to your new patients with a warm handoff that emphasizes their confidence in you and your abilities.
Prepare before every patient
If you are new to a practice, every patient is new to you. Preparation is therefore essential.
Every day, set aside time to review charts for the following day’s patients. You should find a quiet place where you can concentrate. Ensure that you are aware of what each patient expects from you: are they coming in for a routine cleaning or are they undergoing a more complex treatment plan? Consult the senior doctor or your auxiliaries if anything is unclear. If you need to brush up on best practices or materials, refer to your textbooks or other resources.
Review your schedule with the team during the morning huddle. Inquire about the patients of the day from the staff. In the event that Mrs. Jones is scheduled to visit with a toothache, it may be helpful to know that this is her fourth visit this year—or that it has been four years since she last visited. Discuss the roles of the staff for the day.
This preparation time will ensure that you will not enter a treatment room “cold.” It will also prevent you from feeling the need to look things up in the treatment room. Please do not do this! If you must confirm a next step while a patient is in the chair, excuse yourself and return to your prep area. Ensure that the patient’s trust and confidence are not at risk.
Add detailed notes to the chart at the conclusion of each procedure. When the patient returns, your future self will thank you.
Consult with your auxiliary personnel
In the case of a new dentist, your auxiliaries may have more hands-on experience than you do. It is possible that they have been seeing “your” patients for many years.
A good assistant can make your day much more efficient. You may want to send them to the operatory to perform an initial check, then have them report back to you in your office or hallway so that you are better prepared when you enter the operating room.
Nevertheless, the auxiliary needs to be aware that you are responsible for the operatory, as well as feel respected for their knowledge and expertise.
Establish good relationships with each of the auxiliaries. Ideally, this should begin before your first day of work as part of your integration plan. Meet with each member of the team one-on-one. Find out what they enjoy doing and how they prefer to work with you. Are they used to a high level of autonomy, or do they prefer that you run the show? Do they have familiarity with your preferred materials? Do they feel comfortable performing the full range of procedures that are permitted by the state?
It is the doctors’ responsibility to set the right tone throughout the practice. Lead the discussion of your planned patients in the morning huddle. The senior doctor should guide staff to defer to you regarding patient care if they continually come to him with questions.
Consult your senior doctor regularly
When you’re just starting out, it’s okay to not know everything. It is important, however, that you avoid communicating major knowledge gaps to staff or patients. Discuss tricky cases with your senior doctor or ask for guidance instead. One-on-one meetings should be held away from the staff, just the two of you.
Initially, these meetings may be held daily or twice a week. In time, you can reduce their frequency to monthly or as needed. In any case, make a note of things you’d like to talk about or clarify as you prepare for the day. When you come to your meetings with specific topics to discuss, a busy senior doctor will appreciate your conscientiousness.
Demonstrate that you are learning and gaining speed and confidence along the way. If you keep struggling with a particular procedure, look for CE or other opportunities to improve your skills. If you shadow a specialist in your area, you can learn a lot (and build a professional network at the same time). Do not be afraid to ask the senior doctor for additional mentoring if you need it.
Don’t be afraid to fake it until you make it.
Ultimately, wishy-washy approaches do not work. When you walk into the operatory, exude confidence, even if you aren’t feeling it. Ensure that you are decisive and respectful. In the event that your auxiliary begins to question you in front of the patient, excuse yourself and have a sidebar conversation outside of the operatory.
An important part of being a good diagnostician is thinking through the situation carefully. While in the operatory, do this confidently. Demonstrate to the patient (and yourself) that you know what you are talking about by explaining your reasoning.
It’s okay to say, “This is a very difficult situation and I need a second opinion.” Patients and staff will value this approach more than providing an incorrect answer. Make sure you follow through!
Every new job requires a leap of faith and a shot of confidence. Although it’s normal to feel nervous, remember: you have what it takes to be a dental rockstar! The more you act like one, the more likely you are to believe it.