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Practice Management - Creating a Successful Team


A dentist is the leader of the practice. She/he serves as a role model and a mentor.  Part of this ability to lead the team to the desired outcomes or practice goal is excellent communication.  Leaders communicate in a variety of ways. Some dictate and some collaborate.  One style of communication will earn more respect and “followers” than the other.  It is important to realize your style and understand how it may affect your team members when it comes to extracting (no pun intended) their best ability to focus on the tasks at hand.

Being a dental team leader involves making many tough decisions.  You decided when and where you wanted to practice, your hours and days.  Those were relatively easy as compared to the hiring of team members.  Notice, I said “team” members.  When we were in dental school, we had histology and learned about staphylococcus.  Staph usually causes diseases when out of balance with the oral or physical environment.  We need to realize that referring to your team as “staff” sounds more like a disease-inducing prospect than a group of people who are working together for excellent patient care. 

Dentistry is a team profession. I was told by a retiring dentist that the “office” should not be considered a team, as they do not pay the bills. I disagree---every person in our office helps with paying the bills, regardless of how small their role is. Although the dentist is the person who is completing the major dental procedures, the hygienist is also integral to the patient flow and revenue. The assistant and the front desk manager are equally important in creating a healthy environment for both the doctor and the patient.  The four pieces of the moving puzzle around and about the patient are all important. 

All components of your team need to be on the same page and communicate the same language to our patients.  Part of this communication is reliant on a policy manual and procedure book that outlines your mission and scripts that the team uses to communicate the same thing to your patient. The policy and procedure manual is a guide map of systems to navigate your business model.   You certainly do not want the assistant to say one comment and the front desk to contradict her or him.  This will not bring good will from the patient.  As many patients do confide more in the dental team than the doctor, the answers to any question should be similar. If a question that arises and someone does not know the appropriate answer, the team member should check with the doctor. 

One of the most difficult components of leadership is to manage the team with respect and equality.  Following the Golden Rule, we need to focus on working together in a respectful manner. We are in the business of creating new referrals with our patients.  Patients are very astute in recognizing tension in the office.  They may comment on it or, worse, mention it to their friends when they leave the office. 

Dentists wear several hats and are continually balancing between roles of entrepreneur or business owner, practicing clinician and all-encompassing management. Focusing on creating a mission, policy manual, team concept and following the “Golden Rule” of respect should be cornerstones for our practices.  With these four basic pieces of management, we will easily be able to maneuver our practices through all sorts of waters, both smooth and difficult.  Being a leader takes skill and patience, regardless of how large or small your team is.   How you lead, it will determine the practice’s success.   

Courtesy of Sheri B. Doniger, DDS 


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