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Practice Management - The Elephant in the Curriculum

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Courtesy of Sheri B. Doniger, DDS

As we begin a series of two articles on Practice Management, the focus will be on the fact we, as dentists, never received any (or minimal) Practice Management courses during our dental school years. If you graduated prior to the last decade, practice management was not even a blip on the curricular horizon. With the need to include all the basic sciences, building clinical skills and learning how to interact with patients, the proverbial cart was full. Some of the newer graduates do have coursework in practice management, but many schools are still lacking in that part of the curriculum.

When we graduate and start up a dental practice, we have many roles. Along with being a clinician, we are the CEO, CFO, CTO, infection control specialist, human resources manager, and chief purchasing officer of a business. As an associate, we may serve one or more of these functions, depending on the level of involvement in the practice. For most of us, we are without the MBA or CPA that many of our other business colleagues have to tackle issues that arise daily in our practices. There are a plethora of programs available to learn different aspects of practice management. Many of us either just entered the business world and received on the job experience or relied on mentors, practice owners and friends to guide us through the maze of roles we need to master.

One of the fundamental concepts of be­ing the CEO/owner of our practice is that we are serving as a leader. To avoid many major issues that arise in our practices, we need to build on leadership skills and follow some basic principles. We estab­lish a mission and a vision of our practice and expect everyone to work towards our goals. If you do not have a basic mission and vision for your office, now may be a good time to formulate one. A business without a mission is like a boat without a paddle. Every business, from the largest to the smallest, has a mission statement. Bisco’s mission is “to promote excellence and continual progress in dentistry for the benefit of dental practitioners and patients worldwide.” A mission allows us to steer or direct our practices in the way we see them evolving. Part of our mission is to see one patient at a time. Yes, as a dentist in a larger practice, it is almost impossible to see two patients at a time, but many of us do. We may have multiple chairs with different treatments along with hygienists working with their patients. My “one patient at a time” may not work for larger practices, but it has been a keystone for mine.

As a leader, we must learn the art of dele­gation. We hire a dynamic team of people who are all working towards our mission. They were all hired because they fit our vision for the practice. We have to be able to delegate tasks to focus on the things we do best: clinical dentistry. A dentist who micromanages his or her team will be non-productive in the long run. If the team member is following the protocol set forth in their job description, they should not need to be micromanaged. If they do, it may be time for you to cut your losses and seek an employee who is able to work without constant supervision and guided direction. It is not productive to micromanage. Delegation without con­stant scrutiny is an aggravation free way to administer a practice: on both sides of the equation.

Through our dental training, we acquired the skills to become an excellent clinician, to treat patients ethically and prudently. Once we begin our practice, we become

an entrepreneur. We need a roadmap to success that includes not only clini­cal skills, but interpersonal and business acumen. With the basis of a mission and vision for your practice outlined, and learning the art of delegation, we should be on the road to establishing a stress free practice. The ability to find a mentor to help us navigate through the intricacies of practice management is key.

 

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