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Flexibility May Just Solve Your Dental Staffing Problem


Good dental assistant candidates may be more likely to come on board if the practice offers flexibility options.



As a dental recruiter, I have figured out the secret sauce to finding dental assistants. It is simple. Look at your flexibility policy. Are there ways to be flexible and still have the office covered?

Let us unpack this. I have screened 5 dental assistants this week alone, and my office managers have passed on all of them for one reason. They have schedule restrictions of needing to pick up their kids from daycare at 6 p.m. They have shared this information with me when I ask if they have any schedule restrictions. I know…it is taboo to ask any questions in this arena.

Tread carefully. But these applicants all have shared how there is no one else to help them out. Single parenting is a challenge. During the pandemic, I had one office manager in Florida considering starting childcare in their office due to daycares being closed at that point. Things are better now with daycares being open again, but drop-off and pick-up is still a challenge for many single parents.

The last applicant, Rita, is earning $34,000 per year and has one kid. She works 32 hours a week and has been having trouble finding work because of her childcare issue. She has no support system or father of the child who can assist. So, what should we do? Pass on good solid dental assistants, because they are caught in a bind of taking care of their kids and work?

I sit here hopeful as I really like these applicants. Part of my job is to talk with the dental practice office managers to point out that we could fill these 2 positions if we got flexible. I have screened or tried to screen 100 dental assistants since I began 6 months ago. That does not include the hundreds I have reached out to through Indeed’s Match Candidates and Find Candidates and Zip Recruiter. But every time I think I have filled the spot, there seems to be turnover in the practice. Since the shortage is not going away, I think this idea should be thoroughly explored as an option.

Finding dental assistants who do not ghost me is a unicorn in this challenging market. I have some excellent candidates who need a break. They must find a job, support their family, and make it all work on, sorry to say, a low salary. They too do ghost me, but it is not personal.

There are some A-rated excellent applicants that would fit perfectly in this practice. I could suggest increasing their salary so they could pay for childcare, but that is not an option. You cannot do for one employee that you do not do for others. I get that.

What about job sharing? Could that be another way to get talent in? I personally have been in a job-sharing situation. We worked like a well-oiled machine with nothing falling through the cracks. The key was the organizational and communicational skills of both job sharers to make that work. Well, that and not dumping work on the other person.

Some practices do not want part-time staff. Why? The belief is that absenteeism would be more of a problem. I do not buy that. There are so many dental assistants who are working part time. Why not investigate if we can make this work in our practices? The resistance is there. But it is time. Time now to look at how it could be done in your dental practice. You never know—it could work out brilliantly.

Wish me luck…I am going in. I do not have the answer, but I am starting the conversation.

Do you have a flexibility policy? If so, how does it work?
Email me at diana2@discussdirectives.com. I would like to hear what you do.

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