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Julie Varney, CDA, RDA, has 23 years of chairside experience. She is currently the Practice Administrator/Dental Assistant to Brent A. Bradford, DDS in Syracuse, NY. She is an active member of the American Dental Assistant Association and the American Association of Dental Office Managers. Julie is the President/Founder of the Syracuse/CNY Local Chapter of AADOM, where they work to provide continuing education, networking and support for fellow front office team members in the Syracuse/CNY area. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on facebook.
It’s true – there’s no stopping the passage of time, but there’s got to be a way to get it on your side. As practice administrator, the clock can be a fierce taskmaster and is hardly your best friend. Sometimes things go wrong and difficult situations occur in even the most efficient practices, but the test is not what will go wrong. It’s how we handle these challenges.
It’s true â there’s no stopping the passage of time, but there’s got to be a way to get it on your side.
Does this scenario sound all too familiar? Hygiene needs an exam, the patient in room five can’t get numb, and now the CEREC machine is flashing red. As more minutes are lost, the office schedule is running behind again!
As practice administrator, the clock can be a fierce taskmaster and is hardly your best friend. Sometimes things go wrong and difficult situations occur in even the most efficient practices, but the test is not what will go wrong. It’s how we handle these challenges when they do occur. It requires a team effort to overcome these mishaps and get back on schedule. How do we work together to help the doctors and team excel in clinical efficiency and recover the lost seconds and minutes?
The center of most dental practices revolves around the dentist and the dental assistant working together for optimal patient care. It is critical to start by observing and evaluating the dentist/dental assistant relationship. The main objective of the dental assistant should be to provide quality patient care while working in harmony with the dentist to accomplish one goal, completing patient treatment. To do this there are three main focus areas that the dental assistant must become efficient in room setup, procedure flow and breakdown.
Dental assistant room setup
-Organize for efficiency. Highly used items should be at your fingertips in the operatory; if not move them within reach.
-Stock up. Before starting the day or at the end of each day, prepare and stock the room with all necessary items. Allow at least 30 minutes to do this.
-Identical spaces. Working out of two rooms? Set the rooms up identically. Try the use of a bin system to organize procedures and materials for each. This simple step allows you to train yourself and others to automatically know where items are without any confusion.
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Dental assistant procedure flow
-Take pictures. Document which items are needed for each procedure, laminate the pictures, and then print and post them in the cabinet door or in the systems manual. This eliminates wasting valuable time searching drawers and or cabinets for missing items.
-Setting up for procedures. Have the doctor go over each procedure from start to finish. Ask detailed questions about these procedures and how or why items are used and in what order. Take excellent notes and go back and type these notes up to help train future team members.
- It’s all in the details. Pay attention to details and your surroundings throughout the procedure; continue to take notes, if needed. If the procedure did not flow as smoothly or was not completed in the time allowed, reevaluate the systems. Was it the procedure setup? During the procedure, was everyone efficient enough? Take time to meet with the Doctor about how to make it more efficient or perhaps extend the amount of time needed for the procedure.
Dental assistant room breakdown
- Hand off. When handing off your patient to the front desk, communicate with the administrative team what was done and what still needs to be done. Ask the patient if they have any questions and address their concerns. Thank the patient for coming in and let them know that you are available if they have other concerns. Assure them that they are in good hands with whoever you are handing them off to.
- Clean up. Throw out all trash and disposals. Place all dirty instruments in the sink or your carrier for transport to the sterilization area. Wipe down the room starting with the delivery unit and chair. Move on to your area and end at the place where you held contaminated instruments. This ensures you wiped down everything along the path of your exit. xit the room with your instruments and proceed to the sterilization area.
- Start again. After processing instruments, return to the room. Set up for the next patient procedure using your organized systems. Make sure all materials and instruments are available and ready for the next procedure; pay close attention to the details. Double-check room, exit and greet the next patient.
Room breakdown/setup should not take longer than 5 minutes. Using a consistent breakdown pattern will help ensure efficiency and help keep the office on time. Staying on task and running on time can be a daily struggle for many dental teams. However, the dentist and dental assistant are the heart of the practice, and when there are systems in place to assist in maintaining a consistent patient flow, the dental practice can easily recover from inconvenient time delays. Effective systems, proper training, and excellent time management skills ensure the clinical area will not skip a beat. By enhancing the dental assistant’s education and empowering them to take on a leadership role, they can competently lead the dentist through a highly productive day and help the practice quickly recover from costly delays that will happen.