The magic of a new team member

By Sheri Doniger, DDS, contributing writer

September 4, 2009 -- Editor's note: Sheri Doniger's column, Dental Diaries, appears regularly on the advice and opinion page, Second Opinion.

Ah, the new employee. Nothing says "team management" more than hiring a new employee. For whatever reason, teams have turnover. Although we expect when we hire to have that wonderful longevity the person promised in the interview, life happens.

Hiring a new team member can be seen as an opportunity or a bother. Once you receive the notice that someone has to depart the practice, depending on the level of service and years of employ, it may be devastating. But I see it as a huge opportunity to re-evaluate your practice protocols and procedures.

Online advertising

With the advent of Craigslist, hiring has become much simpler. Prior to these kinds of online resources, we would contact the local newspaper, schools, and dental reps when seeking potential new hires. And I swear that, for some reason, folks would give their notice right after the newspaper went to press, so we would have to wait another week before the advertisement was placed, potentially losing qualified candidates and leaving the team position vacant for a longer period of time.

But now, with online advertisements, the position can be posted instantly. We recently did this in our office and were contacted by interested applicants within minutes.

During the hiring process of new team members, we have them fill out a basic form that includes a question about whether they have had the hepatitis vaccine series and gives us permission to do a background check on them. The hepatitis vaccine would certainly depend on the position to be hired but, in our office, we do cross-training, so hepatitis vaccine is imperative. The background check? Because we entrust our team with many important documents that include patients' Social Security numbers and credit card information, we conduct background checks to ensure applicants have no prior warrants, especially those with credit card fraud.

How did this part of our hiring protocol come into being? Unfortunately, we unknowingly hired a person with such warrants and she had to be physically removed from our office by the local police. This whole problem could have been avoided had we done a background check. We definitely learned!

Willingness to learn

When we hire a new team member, the person comes to the office with specific knowledge. If we are hiring someone who will need training, the individual should be enthusiastic. Nothing is better than a willingness to learn. When hiring a new team member who has had some experience, the person may offer some insights to different ways to do procedures. Yes, each office has its own style, but being open to new ideas is a sign of a great leader. And incorporating ideas from new team members should not negate the worth of current team members. We should take the best of all suggestions, from current, new, or past employees, to make our practices outstanding.

With the changing economy and the slowness factor creeping into many dental practices, the time is right to re-evaluate your office's systems. Everyone should participate in brainstorming sessions for updating office protocols. Team members are more motivated when they are asked to participate. They feel ownership. You need your team on your side, especially in these times of canceled recare appointments and "Let's wait on that crown."

So take your time when hiring. We are not the only ones who enjoy team member longevity. Patients appreciate the stability in our offices. But when the opportunity arises to search for that special person to fill a vacant position, appreciate the opportunities a new team member brings. Embrace the possibilities.

Sheri Doniger, D.D.S., practices clinical dentistry in Lincolnwood, IL. She has served as an educator in several dental and dental hygiene programs, has been a consultant for a major dental benefit company, and has written for several dental publications. Most recently, she was the editor of Woman Dentist Journal and Woman Dentist eJournal. You can reach her at

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.

Copyright © 2009


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