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Newbie in the Dental Office


Starting a job in a new dental office can come with a unique set of challenges. What are the best ways to handle these challenges?

Newbie in the Dental Office

Newbie in the Dental Office. Photo courtesy of bnenin / stock.adobe.com.

It was my first day of work in dentist office. I thought "What have I gotten myself into?" I was hired to be the front office staff person and recruiter to fill a couple positions. I thought, “Sure. No problem. The staff is awesome!” You see, I am a patient of the practice and there was a need for someone to answer the phones and schedule appointments. So, I offered to help for 2 months.

What a nightmare! I realized on day 1 that I had bitten off more than I could chew. When I was in high school, I worked the front desk for an ophthalmologist. I thought this would be an easy job with me just answering phones and reading a book in between. I was so wrong. Everything is computerized now, and while I am fluent with the workings of computers and programs, this was something I never expected. I was expected to know the computer programs without any onboarding. To schedule an appointment, I needed to know what the purpose of the appointment was and the fee that would be charged. Somehow, I was supposed to go to the treatment plan and figure out what these codes meant with no training and no cheat sheet. It was impossible. Here is a perfect example, I didn’t even know that I wasn’t signing in correctly for the time sheets. It wasn’t until the 3rd pay period that I was shown a screen I had never seen before and taught how to log in for my time. All I could do is laugh. In a nutshell, that was the crystal-clear example of how chaotic everything was. Yep, they didn’t even show me how to get paid correctly.

Don’t get me wrong. There was just no time for them to train me. I saw a lot of the dentist’s frustrations and to be honest, this changed how I felt about him. I knew that because I was there only as a temporary hire for 2 months, I would not be going back to him as my dentist. How could I? His stress was off the charts. He somehow saw me as a cross between his office manager and a therapist. I can’t tell you how much I disliked working there. The people were great, but the stress was keeping me up at night. I worried whether this practice would go under.

I made mistakes. Who doesn’t? It got to a point that I would take notes by hand and then have the dentist sit down with me at the end of every day to go over and make sure I was scheduling people correctly. He was showing me things on the treatment plan, telling me to delete things that weren’t current. How was I supposed to do that? He somehow was confused that because I write for the dental industry, I should know everything about everything. It doesn’t quite work that way.

This experience made me think about other dental professionals just starting out. The first day they are excited and nervous like I was. Hopefully, they had someone take them under their wing and show them the ropes. If not, they might leave and not come back. Did I contemplate that? No, but my mother did for me. She didn’t understand why I would work in this difficult situation.

What made it tolerable was 1 of the dental hygienists. She helped me with the computer whenever I had a problem. She didn’t always teach me the correct way to do something, but she truly tried. I think that the other thing that kept me working there was knowing that I couldn’t be fired. He needed me more than I needed him. It was a great day when I hired my replacement and gave notice.

Think about the new person in your practice. With this staff shortage, it is a huge deal to find someone to bring on, but, once they show up, you need to work even harder to keep them. That means not throwing them into the fire with inadequate training and onboarding. It means taking them out to eat and getting to know them. That includes helping them to learn how to do the job and being supportive when they are struggling with their stress and frustration. If I hadn’t had that dental hygienist work with me, I can guarantee I would have quit sooner. After all, retention is critical once you find that employee. Make sure you don’t blow it.

Email me at Diana2@discussdirectives.com if you have ever had challenges as a new employee. I would like to hear how you handled it.

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