Staffing shortage at your dental practice? Learn 5 ways to weather the storm

Sarah Traeger.
Sarah Traeger.

Each time I visited my dentist in the past year or so, the same concern arose: “What can I do about my dental practice's staffing shortage?” As a dentist and practice owner, you were never trained on how to handle economic issues such as staffing shortages. You know how to fix teeth, not the hiring crisis.

While it’s not your job to fix staffing shortages, you do have to take steps to weather the storm and either find ways to hire new team members or retain your current ones. Dental Claim Support (DCS) is a full-service revenue cycle management (RCM) service provider. Through over a decade of helping dentists get the cash flow they can count on, we’ve seen firsthand how they also deal with the ebbs and flows of the economy. 

Sarah Traeger.Sarah Traeger.

In this article, I’ll share five tips to combat staffing shortages at your dental practice. While you can’t predict what the economy will look like in the next few years, you will weather the storm by applying these tips that will help you retain your current staff and even hire new team members. 

By taking proactive steps to combat staffing shortages, your dental practice will remain productive and profitable, with all of the right people in place.

1. Cultivate a healthy work environment at your dental practice.

One of the best things you can do as a dental practice leader -- for your financial and professional success -- is to ensure your employees’ work environment is healthy and pleasant. This is crucial, especially during staffing shortages.

People’s tolerance for toxic work environments is low. Toxic work environments are born out of disorganization, lack of communication, and lack of work-life balance. All three of these will lead to resentment among your employees. 

To avoid a toxic work environment, make sure everyone’s roles and responsibilities are clear. When this happens, no one is stepping on the other’s toes to complete a task. 

You should also have weekly meetings with your entire team to touch base on how everyone is doing in their role, their goals for the week, etc. It might feel repetitive, but it helps your team communicate more effectively, and it keeps everything in sync. 

Take steps to help your dental team bond with one another (and bond with you, their leader!) When your team knows more about one another than what their role is, they will bond more easily. And it’s easiest to bond outside of work at a team-building event.

Consider having a team lunch once a week, where everyone can sit down and socialize while you cater lunch. Some offices will have a team breakfast. If weekly is too often, consider monthly, or even quarterly outings, with your team to lunch or dinner. You might consider events like bowling, escape rooms, or Top Golf. Friendly competition is a fun and great way to bond with your team.

When your team is happy to come to work and see their coworkers, they are less likely to leave for another job. And when potential hires hear about your work environment, they will be thrilled to be hired by you. 

2. Stay active on social media when posting job openings.

While you actively search for new hires, take advantage of social media such as LinkedIn. Share your job posting and other interesting aspects of working at your dental practice. You can also share job openings on your dental practice’s Facebook page, your personal Facebook page, or even in Facebook groups. 

During a hiring crisis, the goal is to cast a wide net and hope you get enough applicants so that you can be picky when choosing the right person. This is also where your amazing work environment can come into the picture.

When you have work outings, make sure to take pictures and/or videos that you can share on social media. Be active on social media, consider spotlighting your team members, and post celebration photos that show how much you value your team. When potential hires see this, they’ll be more excited to apply. 

It also helps to be as transparent as possible on your job listing. Make sure you list the responsibilities and requirements clearly with a well-written job description but also consider including the salary range (depending on experience) and any benefits they will receive. This can make a decision much easier for someone seeking a job.

3. Offer flexible schedules for your dental team.

Ever since the COVID-19 pandemic, when everyone was working from home, everyone is all about work-life balance. It should be prioritized at your dental practice.

A great way to retain employees and entice applicants is to offer flexible work schedules, and/or flexible time off. We’re not saying to let your employees work from home three days a week. In fact, at a dental practice, that’s not really possible.

But I am suggesting that you should have a conversation with your employees about what work schedules work best for them. It’s ultimately your decision as the employer, but asking employees for their input can go a long way.

For example, let’s say you have an office manager who has a child who needs to be picked up from soccer practice at 3 p.m. on Wednesdays. Your office manager needs to leave work 30 minutes early every Wednesday. Have a conversation with them and figure out a solution together. When you respect your employees' time outside of work, they will respect you as a leader and as a person.

4. Create incentive programs that will benefit your dental practice and your team members.

Let’s be real -- we all go to work to make money. And, yes, other priorities make a job meaningful, but compensation takes the cake.

To retain your employees, create incentives or reward programs for them. For example, have a friendly competition to see who can bring in the highest number of new patients in a month. Whoever wins gets a bonus, an Amazon gift card, or even extra paid time off.

These programs will motivate your employees and make them excited to work, because they know they will be rewarded. It’s a great way to reward your employees while also increasing productivity. It’s a win-win! And if your applicants hear that you offer incentives to increase their pay, they will be more intrigued to apply.

5. Outsource your RCM services to save time and money.

A great way to retain your employees and combat the hiring shortage is to look into a RCM service provider. We know what you’re thinking: “Isn’t outsourcing RCM contradictory to keeping my current staff?” The short answer is no!

When you outsource your RCM, it keeps you from having to hire high-stakes roles at the practice. For example, you wouldn’t need to hire an insurance coordinator. And this will save you thousands in your overhead costs.

The cost of hiring an insurance coordinator is approximately $50,000 to $65,000 per year. Let's say you're a midsized dental practice with monthly claims of just under $100,000. Based on the claims revenue posted, your dental claims service fee will range from $1,400 to $3,500 per month. That’s about $30,000 per year.

That’s a $20,000 difference between hiring an insurance coordinator versus outsourcing your RCM. You won’t need to fill that role if you outsource.

A common misconception is that outsourcing any part of your revenue cycle will result in letting a current staff member go. That’s typically not the case! In fact, the RCM service provider is like an extension of your in-house team. They will handle patient and insurance billing tasks while your team focuses on dental patients.

This relieves them of the stress that comes with dealing with dental insurance. It’s also a great way to retain your staff, because they won’t feel overworked or overwhelmed with the amount of work on their plate. The RCM service will relieve them, and they can focus on the more rewarding work, such as patient service and care.

You can’t control the way the economy ebbs and flows, and you certainly can’t control a staffing shortage. But you can proactively take steps to retain your current dental team and hire new ones.

The most important thing is that your dental practice remains profitable. And that’s not possible without your amazing dental team.

Sarah Traeger is the content manager for the dental billing company Dental Claim Support.

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.

Page 1 of 4
Next Page