While every practice we have consulted over the past 19+ years has been completely unique in many ways, there are certain issues and patterns that are in common. The staffing of a denture practice and delegation to the staff is one of the aspects that our consultants are faced with solving. Here are some of the main scenarios:
The solo practitioner had no staff when we started. We bumped the income up through a few tried and true methods, then the denturist hired a receptionist/lab tech and the practice grew. We got the receptionist doing internal marketing and stabilized the practice into steady growth.
The denturist had a reception/lab tech. We added a full time lab tech. The result was more internal marketing by the receptionist, resulting in more business. The lab work was done faster. Patients were impressed by the speed of delivery, and so they referred more new patients.
The denturist had a receptionist and sufficient lab staff. The practice was grossing well at this point but had plateaued. We added a chairside assistant who took over a number of functions that the denturist was still carrying unnecessarily. Again, stress levels went down and stats went up further.
In all the above scenarios, the practices had plateaued and overloads started to occur, resulting in stress on the denturists and teams. By adding appropriately trained and utilized staff, the overloads dissipated and the practices grew again.
The Most Valuable Commodity
The most valuable commodity in the practice is the denturist’s time. He must learn to spend his minutes wisely and where they will create the most benefit, i.e. chairside with patients, overseeing the lab work, and managing the practice. His focus must be on the patient in the chair and ensuring that the highest quality of care and service are provided to each and every patient. In a busy practice, this is almost a full-time job in and of itself.
Accordingly, the practitioner must learn to train his staff well so that they perform to the standards that he wants and then delegate everything he possibly can to them.
The typical sequence for the addition of staff is first a receptionist who helps with the lab work, then a lab technician and then an assistant who works both with the practitioner and in the lab. Each is added as the workload increases and overloads occur. Most often, these periods of overload will show up as a “pause” (plateau, leveling off) in the growth of the practice due to certain functions not getting done on a timely basis or the practitioner’s work hours increasing.
Assess the Situation
Take a few minutes and compile a list of all the things that you are typically doing on any given work day. Over the next few days, add any additional functions noted. (Seldom does an individual get everything onto the list on the first try.) Now assess the list and determine for each item if this is something that you NEED to do (honestly). The point of assessment should be: first, can you legally delegate this and, second, is it a management function that you should be doing.
Watch those after-hours!
Some denturists do their own bookkeeping, including payroll, after hours. This is not a management function but rather something that can be delegated to a bookkeeper who in all likelihood will do it on a more timely basis, or give it to a properly trained receptionist.
Many denturists still do lab work in the evenings. Again, this is something that can and should be delegated as the practice grows. Most denturists do all the patient education including denture care instructions instead of having an assistant do this.
The scope of a chairside assistant varies from province to province but it is becoming more and more acceptable to utilize a chairside assistant who can work in a patient’s mouth (take impressions) as well as work in the lab.
Don’t Undervalue Yourself
A number of practitioners undervalue their time and don’t see that if they hire competent staff, train them and then utilize them, they can actually make their practice grow, and grow dramatically, by being the executive of the practice and planning for the future. The feasts and famines experienced by many denture practices stop occurring when there is sufficient staffing and the denturist is delegating properly.
So compile that list and then one by one, delegate to your staff every function that you can. Obviously this needs to be done on a gradient (step by step) and as the practice can afford it, but it can be done and done successfully.
Two of the largest practices that we deal with have added the last component mentioned, i.e. a chairside assistant, and both wondered how they ever got along without one and swore that they would never be without one again.
There is another element to the whole picture: practice management was not something denturists signed up for when applying to denture school. In fact, many denturists think of it as something “everybody knows” or can figure out on their own. Unfortunately this viewpoint can be somewhat self-limiting because the ability to succeed as a clinician really lies outside the scope of their technical abilities. We have trained and consulted a lot of the top Canadian practices with excellent growth resulting because there is so much more to know about running a practice that one can figure out on one’s own.
Learning how to be a good leader, how to train staff in the correct sequence, how to delegate properly, how to bring out staff’s best efforts and abilities, how to get compliance to orders given, how to market, how to manage by statistics, how to strategize future changes and growth, how to get patients to choose ideal care, etc., are skills that can be studied and applied. The School of Hard Knocks is not a good teacher. Most denturists lose many hundreds of thousands in unearned dollars because they have not yet received proper management training.
We have trained over 800 healthcare professionals to date. Let us be of service to you. Capture those unearned dollars and have fun at the same time!
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