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    3 ways to prevent the destruction of your dental practice

    The number one proven way to ruin your dental practice is … STAFF TURNOVER. I can say it out loud. Turnover is like a parasite that jeopardizes patient satisfaction. If your staff isn’t happy, your patients aren’t happy. If your staff isn’t happy, you may be slamming the door on having a successful dental practice. Here are 3 cardinal rules to turn this around.

    Rule #1: NEVER abuse your staff. Be patient and teach them what they need to know.

    My TMJ specialist lost his assistant after working together for 13 years. He started hiring staff and going through them like a newly divorced man goes through women on the dating scene. He went through six assistants within 12 months. The worst part was his behavior. While working on my mouth, he did not hide the hostility in his voice. He was ticked off, because his new employees could not read his mind to know what he was going to do next (when was Mindreading 101 in the dental curriculum at school?). His frustration, or more accurately seething rage, was felt by all of us. (How would you like your doctor working on you and throwing dental tools down on your chest while extremely annoyed at his staff? It’s not a pretty picture!)

    His receptionist took me aside a couple weeks later and asked if I was going to bring my kids to him for braces as he was doing mine. Horrified, I looked at her and said, “Are you kidding? He is abusive to his staff,” I explained. “I still need him, so I am keeping my mouth shut.” She asked if she could discuss it with him. “Sure, as long as he never addresses it with me, and it doesn’t change our relationship.”

    (NOTE: When you are the patient, you are in a dependent position. My dental issues are so complicated, it isn’t an option to leave and start with another specialist mid-treatment. Let’s face it, no one wants to touch a new patient mid-treatment.)

    I couldn’t believe the problem was resolved overnight. We never spoke about this. When he saw that he was losing business and had an incredible patient (who was funding his retirement) feel this way, he changed his ways IMMEDIATELY. He started teaching his new staff how he likes to do things. It was that easy. There was no surprise that he then kept his next two assistants for the next five years.

    More from Lisa Newburger: The 5 worst things that can happen when a patient walks into your practice

    Rule #2: Find out what your staff is thinking about working for you. How? Ask.

    You can gripe about how you want to hire “the right” person and can’t find him or her, but that is nonsense. In this market, there are massive numbers of hard-working dental professionals looking for work. YOU or someone on your staff might be “the problem” as to why you have a revolving door. When you are having a working interview with a potential employee, your staff will talk with them. If they aren’t happy, that is a problem. This may sabotage the interview and you may have trouble hiring the most-qualified candidate. Why work in a hostile work environment if there are other offers on the table? (YOU would have to pay me A LOT of money to do that.) You need to find out what your staff is thinking. How can you do this?

    Just ask. If you can’t talk openly with your staff, then you have a problem. If you can’t see how they are your work family, then the problem probably lies with you. You need them.

    Hire a neutral, third party who can develop trust and provide an anonymous forum for them to be able to speak freely about their work environment.

    Hire a mystery candidate (like a mystery shopper) who can learn what is going on in the interviewing process. This isn’t the ideal, but sometimes you get have to think outside the box.

    More from Lisa Newburger: The top 10 things you can think but never say to a dental patient

    Rule #3: Invest in your staff

    Money talks. But, raises aren’t everything (sorry folks, but research backs this one up). Your employees/colleagues need to know they are valued. Being valued is more than just saying thank you and buying birthday lunches. Do you really know them? Do you ever ask for their opinions? Do you give praise in the workplace in a meeting for something exceptional they have done? Do you give yearly evaluations (on schedule) and ask for their evaluation of their own performance? Get to know your staff. You have to make this investment. Hostile, angry employees influence any new or potential employee to run the other way.

    Don’t put your head in the sand. If your staff is unhappy or you can’t keep staff, you need to face it … YOU or someone on staff is the problem. Don’t you think it is time to end the turnover? If you have worked in a practice with high staff turnover, send me an email at [email protected] and share your thoughts about that experience.

    Lisa Newburger, LISW-S
    Lisa Newburger, a master's level social worker supervisor, helps audiences find humor in talking about tough topics. Her "in-your-face" ...
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