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Tija Hunter, CDA, EFDA, CDIA, MADAA, is an expanded functions dental assistant/office manager in O'Fallon, Mo. She is the director of the Dental Careers Institute, member of the American Dental Assistants Association, where she holds a Master, an independent consultant specializing in team building, assistant training, and office organization. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Being a professional and acting as such is timeless. The way we talk, how we speak, what we wear, how we conduct our social media pages… it’s all about looking and acting professional.
Some people say I’m old and I’m not “keeping up with the times.” The truth of the matter is, being a professional and acting as such is timeless. The way we talk, how we speak, what we wear, how we conduct our social media pages… it’s all about looking and acting professional.
Dentistry is a conservative profession. Although gone are the days of stark white coats, dental assistants wearing white dresses, white hose, white shoes and even a “nurses” hat, we still need to look and act professional.
Let’s look at it from our patient’s perspective. What do they see and hear when they come into our office? Have you ever looked at your office as your patient would? We have always known the first impression tells a person a lot about our office and our team.
Continue to the next page to see the first professional must-do.
Years ago when I was at a sales job (yes I had one job before I became a dental assistant), it was an over-the-phone sales sort of thing, I was told even though I would never see any of these people I was speaking to, I needed to put my makeup on in the morning, and get all dressed up! Well I thought that was the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard of. Dress up to go to a job where I talk on the phone all day?
Let’s look at it like this; how do you feel when you are getting ready to go out for the night? With hair done, makeup done, an awesome new outfit you bought just for this occasion, don’t you feel fantastic? When you look good, you feel good-you feel confident! That confidence boosts your attitude; you smile and you’re in a can-do mood. When you answer the phone now, you project that image to the caller even though they don’t see you. In this world of automation where we have to listen to an entire menu of options and press nine to speak to someone, a friendly, “smiling” voice over the phone is a much better option! Be that friendly voice your patients will appreciate it.
Not only is what we say is important, how we say it is also key. Are you speaking clearly? Are you talking too fast? Many of our older patients are hard of hearing. Younger children don’t slow down to hear what you are saying and adults are worried about getting back to work or getting the kids to listen to what we have to say.
Speak clearly, pronounce your words clearly and concise. Never use slang, run over your words or use “umm.” And never talk about your personal life to patients. Never rush your time with at patient because that is “their” time, they have waited for it and they deserve your attention. Take the time to professionally speak to a patient using terms they can understand. Know your limitations and when you can’t answer something, never guess; get the doctor and explain things to him/her.
And speaking of speaking…
Don’t hang out at the front desk telling your girlfriend who happens to work there about your crazy weekend or your crazy ex and the weekend drama you just went through. The patients waiting out in the waiting room get an earful and it’s not always good. If you’ve been up all night due to baby daddy drama in your life, if your boyfriend just got out of jail and you had to bail him out, do you really want that broadcasted all over the office, and patients too? We all have some sort of drama in our lives-we just don’t need to post it everywhere and make ourselves a target for gossip. We got enough going on to add to it!
Most of us have one or more social media platforms we love to chat on. Many times, employers are finding this a good way to check you out. Nothing gives someone a glimpse into your personality as to look at your Facebook page! Party a little too much and there it is for the world to see. Now while you think your privacy settings are just fine, and I’m sure they are, there is always a friend of a friend who can see your page. Also if any of your friends posted and tagged you in a picture, it will show up on their wall, and if they don’t have good privacy settings, then anyone can see what is posted. What you post gives employers insight into your world and how you might conduct yourself in the office. Give them a positive image of you!
They say a person’s shoes will tell you a lot about them, and I believe that. Remember we are in a healthcare setting-looking the part goes a long way to building a patient’s confidence in us. Take it from this old gal that good, supportive shoes are a must! Spend a little extra on your work shoes and keep them just for work. When buying uniforms or scrubs, make sure they cover you. Can you bend over and not have your backside show? Are they too long? If they are, you walk on them and they become dust collectors. Half way through your day they are dirty. If it rains, you start the day with dirty scrub pants, and that puts you in a bad mood. Clean is confidence, and that radiates to our patients.
In our office we don’t allow a patient to talk on their cell phones past the waiting room. We run a tight schedule and if someone is on his or her phone, it throws off our day. If we don’t want our patients on their phones, then how do we explain it when we are on ours?
Not too long ago we didn’t carry phones with us, our families had our office number and if they needed us, they called the front desk. I believe it still should be that way today. We are literally covered in blood and saliva and we don’t need to have our personal belongings with us and take it home to our families. Besides cell phones distract us from what we are getting paid to do. I don’t know about you, but my boss doesn’t pay me to text and speak to family and friends all day. I am there to work and come raise time, it will be hard for me to justify asking for a raise if I’m on my phone all the time.
When I hire in my office my ads are specific; I want a cover letter and resume. Do you know how many times I don’t get a cover letter? A resume tells me about your experience and skills, a cover letter gives me a glimpse of your personality. I want to know about your attitude, show me how passionate you are, let me see a personality that’s fun but serious, feisty but devoted, you don’t know it all, but you are willing to jump in and try it. When I ask for and don’t get a cover letter, it tells me that you didn’t read my ad completely. Are you just blindly submitting resumes? Do I want someone working for me who doesn’t take the time to either read my post or follow directions?
Does this seem silly? You may think so but truly it’s not. Again, this is a conservative profession. The average doctor graduating from dental school now is $350,000.00 in debt. They have invested in their future and they sure don’t want anything messing that up. Being a doctor is an honor that they worked hard for, treat it as such. Invest in your future, become the professional that looks and acts the part.