Help, I need to hire

By Dr. James V. Anderson, DrBicuspid contributing writer

April 13, 2022 -- I'm sure everyone in dental practice has heard about staffing shortages in our industry. While it's true in some ways, in others, it's not. Dentistry has always had a problem with a revolving door for staffing, but since the COVID-19 pandemic, the problem has become more pronounced.

Dr. James V. Anderson
Dr. James V. Anderson.

A valued team member leaves the practice looking for a better opportunity. Sometimes it's for a higher salary and benefits, but often, it's because they feel they aren't supported or respected. The practice culture, philosophy, and core values -- if they exist -- are not what they expected, so they leave.

Creating a synergistic dental team is challenging. Yet, the rewards are beyond comparison. Usually, team members are hired based on experience, skills, personality, and education. Bringing them all together to work as a team is where it gets tricky. If your practice culture, core values, and philosophy are not addressed as they should be, building a team becomes more difficult.

How to hire the right people

When trying to figure out how to combine clinical skills with business acumen, there must be a sound system for hiring used as a standard for all applicants. When it comes to matching philosophy to the practice culture, this requires more time with the applicant.

Before you hire, ask yourself: What kind of people do you want to associate with daily for up to nine hours a day, several days a week?

Your focus is quality dentistry, but this charge cannot get you through the day if you don't like individual members of your team. The undue stress is palpable to the rest of the team and the patients.

Before you hire again, take this advice.

1. Determine your team size.

Depending on the physical size of the business and the average number of patients you see daily, your team size will vary. Determine how many staff members you need to operate efficiently.

Most solo or small group private practices employ one to three people at the front desk, two to three dental assistants, and one to three dental hygienists. There may also be an associate dentist or a specialist practicing part time.

Each person has specific job duties and very different roles within the practice, yet each depends on the other for support. If all employees are on the same page with the practice culture, core values, skills, and dedication, you create the best team.

2. Create position profiles.

Your job is to create a profile of each position you have filled or unfilled in your practice. The profile for each position should include the necessary job skills, current licensing, desired temperament, core values, and personal life philosophy.

Craft a detailed job description from the profile of each position, and include an area of accountability or direct responsibility for the work. Every team member should have a valuable measurement of accountability that they answer for in a job performance appraisal. For instance, the hygienist is responsible for adequately identifying periodontal disease.

3. Verify soft and hard skills.

Formal education, licensing, and references of merit must be validated with the proper sources. You can also use preemployment testing, such as emotional intelligence (EI) testing. For EI testing, high scores are crucial in healthcare, which increase patients' perception that your team cares deeply about them.

Skills assessment tests are especially critical for office team member positions, such as office manager, which doesn't have a formal education requirement. Specific advanced skills, such as being able to write an appeal letter for an unpaid insurance claim or how to discuss broken appointments with patients, are valued communication skills. The applicant should be tested on their knowledge and their ability to connect to patients in an empathetic manner.

Before you hire based on your core values, make sure that you have shared those values with your dental team. For instance, maybe you need people to be on time every day because you are punctual. Your core values are the root of your workplace culture. You want to create an environment that reflects your core values and personality.

4. Conduct background and reference checks.

Though often thought of as the same thing, background and reference checks differ in a few key ways. Background checks can be very explicit, providing information about an applicant's past employment, credit, and criminal records. Reference checks provide a personal reference about the applicant from a friend or former business associate. Both are necessary to hire in today's employment climate.

Dr. James V. Anderson is a practicing dentist in Syracuse, UT, and is the CEO and founder of eAssist Dental Solutions. He can be reached via email.

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


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