Are your staff members an asset or a liability?

2013 09 24 11 20 23 414 Dental Team 200

When a dentist looks at his or her practice, there are many components that bring it all together. If the parts are working in sync, that's great. If they are functioning separately, then the practice will be less effective, see fewer patients, and bring in less revenue, and many other problems can occur as well.

We are talking about the fundamentals of a practice -- is it a great place to work or an uncomfortable workplace? This basic part of a practice, the dentist-staff relationship, can also be the most complicated.

“This basic part of a practice, the dentist-staff relationship, can also be the most complicated.”

Your employees are an extension of you, the doctor. They were hired to allow you to care for patients and help you run your practice. Ideally, they know what is expected of them and allow you to have peace of mind, knowing that they are working hard to represent you to your patients, to vendors, and in the community.

But as we well know, that isn't always the case. When we hire people to become part of our team, we understand that they are much more than an assistant or front desk coordinator. They are living, breathing human beings who are talented and have a personality that fits in with the culture of the practice, or doesn't fit in some cases. They have personal lives, and things happen outside of work that can creep into the office.

In other words, it's not simple. I understand why some dentists have no desire to handle their staff outside of how they assist them in their operatories.

It's one thing to have the latest, state-of-the-art piece of equipment in your practice. It usually does what it was intended to do, which is make your practice more efficient and effective. And, aside from the payment, it doesn't talk back (unless it breaks down, then it speaks volumes!).

A visual exercise

To visualize how important your team is, let's do a visual exercise. If you were to take an office and remove the dentist and the staff, what do you have? You have an office that can't function on its own.

It takes the entire team to run a practice and teams to run larger groups.

The doctors I have had the pleasure to work with are just like everybody else. They are single or married, many have families, and some get divorced. They have kids that get into trouble, they have car trouble, and their toilets overflow. They may have an advanced degree, but their actual expertise was developed over a period of time because they needed experience. It's not an overnight occurrence.

I know very few doctors who went to college to be managers. Most dentists have very little management training, usually one class or quarter of practice management in college. That's why they can be poor business managers. Doctors prefer to see their patients. That's their craft. It's what gets them up in the morning.

But, staff problems are one of the most common sources of frustration to the doctor, and dealing with the issues that come up eats up a lot of their time. This is one of the main reasons I am hired by dentists. You must have the right staff.

We need to take care of our healthcare practitioners, so they aren't so stressed from the day-to-day handling of the business. We need their attention freed up to take care of their patients, and the best way to do this is by hiring and developing the right staff.

Nena Price is the owner of J.M. Price Consulting, a boutique consulting group dedicated to helping doctors grow and develop their practice and increase the bottom line. She is also a dental practice administrator and has worked in the trenches of practices to help bring out the best in their staff and create the best experience for the patient. She is based in Glendale, CA, and can be reached at [email protected] or via her website,

The comments and observations expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the opinions of, nor should they be construed as an endorsement or admonishment of any particular idea, vendor, or organization.

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