Associate Issues

Welcome back to Coaches Corner! We are happy to share our years of experience working with dental offices all across North America.

Here is today’s question:

Dear Coaches Corner,

We just hired a new associate dentist to work two days a week. He graduated dental school in 2015 and finished his residency in 2016.

He is a very skilled, capable, and ethical dentist and patients like him.  However, like all of us just out of school, he doesn’t understand how the practice of dentistry works. He hovers over the staff annoyingly watching every move they make and repeatedly questions them as to the billing, supplies, paperwork, etc. He just doesn’t understand that if he lets the front desk do its job and assistants do their job, everything will be done properly.

Our staff has been together for more than 10 years. We are trying to guide him but he can be stubborn. He also changes his gloves at least 8 times while doing a single procedure on a single patient. Do you have any tips on how to work a new associate into the practice?

Name and location withheld

Dear NALW,

Thanks so much for your question. You are experiencing something we have seen many times – an associate who is clinically quite capable but just does not get the “big picture” of the dental practice.

But first we need to pose this question. (Disclaimer: We are NOT psychiatrists, although many days we feel like it!)

Is it possible your associate has Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder? He changes gloves constantly. He hovers over everyone and everything. He constantly repeats this annoying behavior. Does he have any strange rituals? Will he not see a patient unless all the rubber dam clamps are aligned in a perfect circle? Does he only do things in sets of three? (That could be good for production.) Does he store dental supplies in alphabetical order?

This could actually be a serious issue. But again, we are dental coaches, not shrinks. In any case, all of this needs to start with a very frank discussion. The good news is that your associate is skilled, capable, and ethical. So he could be a keeper. But remember, he may know absolutely nothing about how a dental practice functions in the real world. Teaching him these things is crucial at this point.

He needs to be told in no uncertain terms that in order for the dental practice to operate at its peak, we need to truly be a team. That means when we have capable staff, we need to let them do their jobs without interference. No one likes to have everything they do scrutinized, and it can lead to major conflicts. So ask him – can he recognize and understand this?

Many times the best thing a dentist can say to a patient is something like:

“Mary – that’s a great question about your insurance and payment options. My job around here is to keep you comfortable and do the best dentistry possible. Carole will be glad to discuss the other stuff with you – she is the best!”

And you can’t just say it – you gotta believe it.

So use these things as teachable moments. Explain. Demonstrate. Lead by doing. But the eight pair of glove thing is a little worrisome. You may be dealing with a more difficult issue here. The only way to find out is to ask.

Please keep us posted.

Coach Rich
Coach Dave

 
Dr. David Madow and Dr. Richard Madow are actual dentists who have been helping dental offices become more successful for over 28 years. They are down to earth, real people who personally connect with their clients and are proud to call them friends. If you have a question for this column, please write to them at coaches@madow.com. We are now offering a complimentary 30-minute coaching session! Please CLICK HERE to schedule yours. Doctors only please.