Finding and Hiring the Right Team Members
What team members do you really need? Some dentists actually run their daily business operations on their own without the help of a dedicated staff. They provide the treatments to their patients as well as answer phones, file insurance forms and order supplies. The question is: do you have to operate that way? If not, having a skilled and friendly team can give you more time to do what you went to dental school to learn how to do. Hiring for the following positions will make your practice run more smoothly and efficiently.
Front Office Manager
The front office manager takes care of the business end of daily operations. He or she is also the first person in the office that most people see or talk to on the phone. In addition to the crucial task of welcoming patients to your office, the front office manager might have any or all of the following duties:
- answering telephones
- scheduling appointments
- verifying insurance benefits
- handling new patient forms
- data entry
- ordering supplies
- keeping files in order
- requesting x-rays
Your dental assistant is more than an extra pair of hands during treatments. He or she interacts with the patient before, during and after their treatment, answering questions, providing patient education and helping to keep the patient calm. If the dental assistant has the required experience and certifications, they might also be able to:
- place fillings
- pack cord
- take impressions
- seat crowns
Your dental hygienist provides teeth cleanings, certainly, but he or she can also do a variety of other tasks depending on his or her level of education and training. Although you can fulfill the role of dental hygienist in your clinic for a while, along with your work as a dentist, but having someone else who can concentrate on that job offers a clear advantage in the number of patients who can be treated in your clinic. With the right training and credentials, a dental hygienist can produce 2 to 3 times in revenue above the salary you pay them. In addition to routine teeth cleaning, a hygienist can perform the following tasks depending on their qualifications:
- placing fillings
- making impressions
- cementing crowns
- anesthetizing patients
Some dental offices have an employee dedicated solely to managing dental instruments and equipment. They clean and sterilize instruments and wipe down equipment after use. You might decide that this position is a luxury during the startup phase. However, down the line, you may want to add a sterilization clerk to increase back office efficiency and quality of this particular task.
At first, you might choose to manage your dentistry business yourself or share these duties with your front office manager. However, as your practice grows, you may benefit from hiring a business manager. This person can take care of the following tasks for you or supervise other employees in performing them:
- coordinating treatments
- educating patients
- figuring patient co-pays
- managing marketing
- supervising the staff
- generating financial reports
- doing payroll
- posting payments
At some point, you may want to hire one person who is in charge of dealing with insurance companies. They check coverage, file forms and handle minor disputes with the insurance company. They also need to have a pleasant demeanor, especially when working with patients to solve insurance problems.
As mentioned before, your front office manager can greet patients, thus taking on the role of receptionist in your clinic. However, as your business grows, you might consider getting someone to do these tasks. This frees up your front office manager to do the tasks that require more skill and leadership ability. in addition to presenting a friendly and professional image by welcoming patients and answering phones for your clinic, the receptionist can:
- Manage new patient forms
- Let back office staff know the patient has arrived
- data entry
Many startup dental practices begin with a part-time bookkeeper who may check entries to the financial records done by the dentist or other members of the office staff. They can also enter the data themselves, ensuring that balances are correct and that all the entries are accurate when compared to other records such as checks, EFT deposits and insurance payments. They also send the checks to pay your office overhead bills. The bookkeeper usually has little or no contact with patients. They report to the front office manager if you have one.
Getting the Word Out
You have assessed your need for each position in your dental clinic. Now you need to spread the word that you are hiring. Networking with other dentists or in a group of people from different professions can help you find people who are well-suited to the positions you want to hire. The way it works is that, instead of looking for the people who will take these jobs, you find people who know the people who can take them. This type of general business networking can take place in face-to-face business/social events or you can do it online by joining dental forums or local business owners’ groups on Facebook, for instance.
You can also put out ads in a variety of ways. The local newspaper is one avenue to consider, but it can be costly compared to other methods. Besides that, young people do not read newspapers as much as they did in the past. You will find most of them getting their information online. You can list your job on Craigslist if you are looking for a receptionist or even a dental assistant, especially if you plan to train them on the job. Job boards such as Monster.com or Indeed.com can provide a steady stream of applicants as well. DentalWorkers.com and iHireDental.com can provide job candidates who specialize in dental clinic work.
If you want an employee who is fresh out of a dental assisting or dental hygienist program, go to the schools that offer those courses. Speak to the recruiting staff there. They may send you applicants or allow you to post jobs on their online or physical job board.
Narrowing the Field
You could possibly get a barrage of applications, especially if you are practicing in an area where jobs are scarce. You will not want to interview every applicant from the long list you accumulate, so you need to narrow your search somehow. You can use the following methods to weed out undesirable candidates:
- check listed credentials
- do background checks
- call references
- make sure they do not live so far away that coming to work will be a burden for them
- do some preliminary testing for intelligence, integrity and personality
- determine whether the applicant’s availability meets your staffing needs
- do short phone interviews and select the three best candidates for in-person interviews
If you have never conducted a job interview before, it might take some time before you are comfortable with the process. It helps to read information on hiring techniques before you begin. Here are some tips to help you glean the information you need from each interview:
- ask candidates to describe their last three work accomplishments
- ask why they want to work in a dental clinic and in yours in particular
- ask what they liked least about their past jobs
- ask if they ever came up with ways to streamline the workflow and if so, how they implemented them and what the results were
- pay attention to their demeanor during the interview as well as the content of their answers
Clinical vs Clerical
Which is more important: your clinical staff or your clerical staff? Obviously, your dental assistant and dental hygienist help you do the work you went into dentistry to do. However, it pays to give just as much attention to hiring competent administrative staff to keep your business running at a profit. What is more, it is helpful if your clinical staff can fill in doing front office work as possible and if your administrative staff know something about dentistry. In some cases, you can train each of them in these areas or you can hire people who have experience in the dental industry. In fact, many people who were once dental assistants later become front office managers.
Experience vs the Fresh Take
You want the person for each job who has the most experience in that or a related job, right? Not necessarily. In some cases, a newbie is a better choice. Why? The simple answer is that you can train the newbie the way you want them to be trained based on your unique style of dentistry, your practice philosophy and practice goals. On the other hand, the experienced staff member is already trained, albeit perhaps in a way that is not conducive to your practice, and can take more of a leadership role right away.
On-the-Job Training vs Completed Education
Many of your dental office staff members can be trained on the job. This can reduce the amount of money you spend on salaries and ensure that they are trained the way you want them to be trained. If you have the time to train them, this is an excellent option for a new dental business. However, those staff members who have graduated from accredited programs in their specialty tend to bring a more professional environment to your office.
The Intelligence Factor
Although it might not take someone with a college degree to greet your patients or even to manage insurance claims, it is important to choose people who are intelligent enough to learn quickly and do all the tasks required of them. Look for people who did well in school or excelled in previous jobs. They don’t have to be well-educated; they just have to have superior native intelligence. You can usually find this out during the working interview.
Perhaps the most important qualification you can set for the employees in your dental office is that they have the right attitude and demeanor. They need to be friendly, kind and caring. Staff members who lecture patients or treat them bruskly can damage your reputation and cause patients to leave your practice for someone who treats them better. Your staff members also need to be calm and provide a comforting environment for patients. Remember that many of the people who visit you are in pain or anxious about their treatments. If your staff members can accomplish this task, your patients will trust you more and feel comfortable coming back for future treatments.
Once you get to the point where you have a good idea of which applicant to choose, bring in the prospective hire to work with you for one day in a working interview. Have them do simple tasks that require no specific training to get a feel for their attitude and demeanor. Train them on a few tasks to see how well they pick up new concepts and skills. Try out their multitasking skills and see how they get along with you and the other staff members. By the end of the day, you should know more about them and be able to make a decision.