Ricki Braswell is President of The Pankey Institute, an organization dedicated to providing continuing dental education.
Q: What advice can you offer lab owners and technicians to help extend their careers?
A: We don't teach here at Pankey, instead we facilitate learning. The distinction is important because learning is achieved when people know not just how to do something but also understand why. The understanding of why creates the application of the knowledge. Additionally, our faculty isn't comprised of teachers, it is made up of practicing dentists and dental technicians. Experienced dental laboratory owners and technicians can revitalize their careers by facilitating learning with their dental clients. Younger dentists didn't get much (if any) dental laboratory technology education while in dental school, yet many are curious about what goes into creating a restorative case. This is a great opportunity to establish your expertise and to share your knowledge.
Q: Have you noticed a more aging customer base? Do you anticipate working with an older workforce going forward as opposed to the way things may have been prior to the touch economic times?
A: As technicians are faced with extending their careers I think that three of the concepts that we introduce our Pankey participants to are applicable: (1) committing to life-long learning, (2) focusing on patient centered dentistry, and (3) creating a work/life balance. The commitment to life-long learning is essential for dental technicians. You are often called upon to make informed decisions about the latest technology and materials and therefore it is important that you are knowledgeable about both. The more you know, the more valuable you are to the dentists who you work with. Dental technicians enjoy being recognized and appreciated for your knowledge and expertise. So do your clients. Although there is a decline in what is seen as "cosmetic" dentistry, there is still a demand for restorative dentistry, and the knowledge is key to creating a restoration that meets the patients needs.
Q: What advice can you offer to lab owners considering expansion/remodeling of facilities in terms of ensuring the safety of their lab and their employees, as well as to ensure that these investments are wise ones in terms of allowing them to remain efficient and competitive in a changing industry?
A: At the Pankey Institute we are seeing changes in the demographic of the participants of our courses. Our classes now are comprised of about 50 percent women. This is a trend that follows that of dental school graduates and one which we embrace since so much of our philosophy rests on the concept of achieving a work/life balance. Achieving that balance is difficult for everyone, but especially for younger dentists and technicians who are trying to build their careers while also growing their families. So now, more than ever, time is very valuable. A laboratory owner or technician who can utilize technology, knowledge or their skills to help their dental clients save time or increase efficiency is a tremendous asset to a dental practice.
The Pankey Institute recognizes the key role that dental technicians play within the dental team. You alone possess the knowledge and talent to create a successful restoration. We encourage dental technicians and dentists to learn together which is why we have a special, discounted tuition, just for dental technicians who attend courses here at Pankey. Additionally, we have course specific for technicians and we are the only place in the country that is a non-profit educational foundation so there isn't any sales aspect to our courses. That allows you the opportunity to see technology and materials and to evaluate them without any biased opinions.