You choose: Private or group practice?


A survey of hygienists' opinions on private and group practices.

Recently, I contacted some of the best hygienists in the field and asked them one simple question. Did they prefer to work for a private or group practice?

After tallying the votes, the large majority said they would rather work for a private practice, as opposed to a group.

The advantage of private practices

Of the ones that chose private practice, most also agreed that a private practice dentist was more generous with company profits (big advantage) and provided a more stable environment for long-term employment.

Private practice dentists also offer excellent CE trips, including dental convention tickets to great cities, paid leave and spending money for shopping and visiting major attractions. They’ve also thrown excellent Christmas parties. I had the pleasure of working for one of these offices, and every Christmas party was held at a famous, high-end restaurant, where each employee was given a Christmas bonus or nice gift that showed the dentist’s appreciation for their hard work throughout the year.

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Every Monday, at this same office, we had what we liked to call the morning huddle. During these weekly meetings, coffee and donuts were brought in for the staff, courtesy of the dentist, and the day-to-day production from the previous week was reviewed. If the daily office goals were met for the previous week, each employee was given the chance to pick from a bag filled with ping pong balls, labeled $5, $10 or $20.  Depending on how many total days that week the office reached their goals, each employee could then get that many turns to draw from the bag.

After finishing the morning huddle, with notes of the scheduled patients that day, the dentist would pull out his cash box, and we’d all gather around to play the ping pong game. It felt so good to be rewarded, not only yearly, but also weekly.

One morning we all got three drawings, because the production goal had been met three times the previous week. We each anxiously awaited our turns. My coworker, Kelly, was first, and she drew two $5 balls and a $10 ball. Next, Mary drew a $5, $10, and $20 ball. Luck was on my side, and I drew two $20 balls and a $10 ball.

I remember being so excited when my doctor counted me out $50 from the cash box and, needless to say, this not only filled the staff with much gratitude, but also started the week right by motivating us to continue to hit production goals. Now, this was a dentist who really cared about his employees and truly exemplified the motto, “A person who feels appreciated will always do more than what is expected.”


The failures of the private practice

Now, some of you may say private practices aren’t all that amazing-there are some that are atrocious, and I must agree. One was a dentist I was temping for. He had cameras in every operatory to watch and listen in on conversations between patients and staff. He would walk around his 2500 square foot office every fifteen minutes to do what he called his “security checks.”

He also had a habit of, when you went on break, purposefully coming to the breakroom to break up your serenity and start useless chatter, either about a patient or current event. The permanent employees also complained that their two weeks’ vacation pay was broken down into hours and divided evenly over twelve months, so if you quit, he would only pay you for up until the month you quit. Any other vacation pay was lost.

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Also, if any CPR or OSHA classes were offered, this dentist would purposefully hold your certificate, so you could not use it for verification at another job. Even if you were provided with health insurance, it was the cheapest around with the least coverage. As opposed to the previously discussed dentist, as you can see, this one exemplified a tyrant in every sense of the word.

Hygienists and other dental staff, please avoid this type of boss at all costs!

Group practices

There were, however, some people who chose the group practice over the private. Some hygienists like a group because they believe, as one person said, “I don’t feel like I’m being babysat!” At a group practice, employee meetings involve updates on the latest dental equipment and trends, and most large dental groups will have a regional manager/dental hygienist to advise staff on office goals and procedures.

The benefits are also good and may include disability insurance, 401K plans, flex-spending accounts and sick leave, managed by an HR department, whose sole purpose is to make sure you get the benefits you deserve. Group practices value their employees-I can recall plenty of times, when working for one in Georgia, being put in nice hotels overlooking the city during the Hinman Dental Meeting, or being invited to annual family picnics and barbecue bonanzas.

In conclusion, there are extraordinary private dentists and great, dependable group practices-however, there can also be a few rotten apples among both. The important thing to remember when selecting is to know your worth as a professional and to choose which environment you feel most comfortable in. You’re working there, so choose for yourself wisely. When hired, get ALL your benefits in writing. Good luck and happy hunting.

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