Hiring a temporary dental staff member to get through busy times and vacations this summer might seem daunting. Here’s a look at how you can make this arrangement work for you and the temporary as efficiently as possible.
While hiring a temp for your dental practice to help get through busy times and vacations this summer might seem unsettling, it is a critical step that many practices need to make—and need to do it well. There are ways you can make this arrangement work for you and the temporary team member as efficiently as possible.
For Starters, Stop Calling Them Temporaries
Joe Fogg, CEO of onDiem, a national, on-demand dental staffing firm, thinks the first step is for dental practices to stop considering the staff as temporary. He prefers the term complementary staff.
Many hygienists and dental assistants work a few days weekly at a private practice as a regular gig. However, many want to work more, so they sign up through the onDiem platform.
Many dental service organizations (DSOs) have already embraced this concept. onDiem has relationships with support organizations, including Aspen and Heartland Dental, who view these staff as their contingent workforce that increase patient access to care.
Manage the Schedule for Success
Chris Lewandowski, DDS, Founder and President of Princess Dental Staffing, LLC, says general dentist offices wanting an effortless onboard experience with their temporary staff should plan the day for it. Scheduling mainstream patients and common dental procedures is essential.
“Schedule fillings, crowns, exams, and emergencies. Any temp can handle that,” Dr Lewandowski says. “You’re going to get the biggest bang for your buck and the smallest amount of disruption from your normal flow.”
Also, communicate about the schedule beforehand to set expectations. For example, some hygienist temps do not like double-booked cleanings, Dr Lewandowski says. If that’s what you have, tell them to ensure the temporary hygienist is comfortable with it. Not doing so leads to poor outcomes.
“When they walk in and no one’s told them, the day starts out wrong. So, make sure you are communicating with your hygienists the type of schedule they are going to be walking into,” Dr Lewandowski says.
The same applies to dental assistants and temporary dentists, too, he says. Much of this responsibility falls to the front desk or office manager, he adds.
“It’s amazing how the front desk can make or break a day that involves a temp,” Dr Lewandowski explains.
Compliance Is Key with Complementary Staff Members
Hiring dental assistants, hygienists, or front-office personnel without a staffing agency often leads to confusion amongst employers regarding the requirements for hiring, classifying, and adequately compensating these short-term employees. The California Dental Association (CDA) writes that many dental practice stakeholders mistakenly assume that temporary workers are not employees, putting them at risk of non-compliance with new-hire documentation, classification, and pay requirement.1
All staff are employees of the practice, whether hired as seasonal support, workers in training, candidates for an open position (working interviews), substitutes, or employees paid less than $600 a year. The rules and regulations are the same as with any employee. Most labor laws, including workplace safety, harassment, discrimination prevention, notice requirements, documentation, minimum wage, payday, paid sick leave, and overtime, also apply to complementary employees.1
Dental practices should hire these temporary employees like they would any new employees to ensure compliance with labor laws and regulations. The CDA provides the following best practices regarding this effort for dental practices:
Hiring temporary staff through an agency relieves the dental practice of this paperwork, Fogg says. His temporaries are employees of OnDiem.
"We verify their licenses. We do background checks. We fully onboarded them. They're under our malpractice, our workers' comp. We even pay the employer pay taxes through worker's comp," Fogg says. "We send an invoice to the practice, and they have 30 days to pay the invoice. We pay the clinicians every Friday. The practices don't have to worry about a thing."
"We're essentially handling all of the HR and scheduling," Fogg continues.
Go Public or Private
Once a practice determines when they need help, they can schedule them on Fogg's onDiem platform, posting them publicly or privately to a specific team member. For public postings, the potential hygienist or dental assistant can check out the practice before they commit. For the private invites, the dental practice can schedule patients for the hygienist or assistant once their complementary staff accepts the opportunity.
"The practice will know the days that they are available and which ones they have already booked. They can even schedule patients around the time that the person can work. Or, if they can't work a specific day, they can schedule around when they can work," Fogg says. "It's easy for them to schedule and manage it."
Common Mistakes That Sabotage Effortless Onboarding
One common mistake Dr Lewandowski says practices make is bringing in an inexperienced temp for a doctor that is not willing to train or doesn’t have time in the schedule to do so. Dr Lewandowski just sold his private practice to handle the staffing company full time, but before that, he never brought in a temporary that had less than 5 years’ experience because he knew he didn’t have time to train in his busy practice.
“Now, a new doctor with only 3 patients that day might be very open to a temp who has zero or less than a year’s experience. It will be cheaper for them, and the doctor would have plenty of time in between patients to explain what’s needed on the next procedure and walk them through it,” Dr Lewandowski explains.
Not calling temporaries before their gig if your office is difficult to find can cause problems, too, Dr Lewandowski says. The same goes for offices with tricky parking situations or cities with traffic concerns. Delays and tardiness rarely make for an effortless day, he explains.
“Going over things like the directions can really help. When the temp shows up at 8:15 and your patient’s been there since 7:55 am, that’s never a great start to the day,” he says.
The Future of Staffing
Fogg says that the future of dental staffing is combining your permanent team with the complementary team. It's a win for practices that want to grow their practice or are struggling with staffing issues due to nationwide shortages, and it's a win for employees that want to work more than they are but don’t want to work full-time. Moreover, onDiem launched onDiem Care benefits so that the complementary team members can access healthcare benefits.
"They have the protection of a w-2 employee but with the flexibility of a freelancer," Fogg says.
In addition, onDiem announced in June that they would partner with the ADHA (American Dental Hygienists' Association) to help hygienists with membership dues and their healthcare and wellness costs. The partnership gives hygienists a discounted membership with the ADHA and up to $3,000 annually ($250 per month) in onDiem Care benefits, applying to things like child or elder care, gym memberships, wellness retreats, copays, prescriptions, and deductibles.
Moving forward, Fogg thinks dental practices should consider the temporary staff as their bench that can help grow the practice's patient base.
"To build continuity of care and have them merge with your existing staff, they need to work in your office a couple of different days," Fogg explains, "But once you've established rapport with them, they feel like they are part of the team, and it's easier to bring them in as complementary staff."
onDiem is working on case studies right now that demonstrate how having complementary team members can increase revenue. He says one small practice went from 1 hygienist to 4 and doubled their revenue. He encourages dental practice stakeholders to consider what that could mean to their practices, too.
"Imagine how many more patients you could treat with 2 or 3 more hygienists that wanted to pick up extra days in their office because they live close to your office and want to work a couple extra days a month for you," Fogg says.
Dr Lewandowski, who started his staffing company 15 years ago to address the outdated process employed by agencies at the time, says that temporary staffing is having a great moment right now. Temporary staffing is in demand and employees can book as much work as they want.
Looking ahead, he sees that platforms like Princess Dental Staffing will continue to connect temporary staff with dental practices that need them. However, whether temporaries continue to find plenty of work on the platform has much to do with the economy.
“If we go into a deep recession and people aren’t getting their teeth cleaned and all of a sudden temps can only find 1 or 2 jobs a week, then more temps will seek full-time employment and the numbers we’re currently seeing on the platforms will drop,” Dr Lewandowski explains. “If the economy goes south, you’ll see fewer temps and more people willing to work full time.”