The Top 10 Things Your Associate Should Do to Get a Successful Start
Many recent graduates are now joining practices throughout the country as associates. Many will be on a “partner track” or, in some instances, consider purchasing the practice of their new employer in a few years. Here are 10 things that associates should consider to ensure they will have a productive and successful relationship.
1. Reactivate patients.
As we’ve mentioned in previous articles, practices that have an over abundance of patients usually have patients in need of reactivation. We recommend that your new associate be scheduled with those potential reactivated patients. This is an excellent way for an associate to meet his or her “new patient” in a normally relaxed setting.
2. Determine your clinical supply requirements.
Often associates do not meet with their employer to discuss what materials and supplies they need. It’s important for both the employer and the associate to be on the “same page” to avoid unnecessary ordering of dental supplies on the associate’s part that are not normally used in the practice.
3. Determine realistic time units.
Many associates are scheduled with identical time units as their employer. This is totally unrealistic, particularly for a recent graduate. Therefore, review your current time unit allocation and make it realistic to meet the time requirements of your “new” doctor. Since many associates are paid a salary in the early stages of their employment, allocating more time for clinical procedures can take stress off the associate and will also prevent your associate from having patients waiting unnecessarily in the reception room.
4. “Over-the-shoulder” training.
Associates need to continue their clinical learning process. We recommend that “over-the-shoulder” training be implemented in your practice, if not on a weekly basis, at least on a bi-weekly basis. By serving as the “dental assistant” for more complicated or new procedures, your associate will learn from you and gain confidence and experience to perform the procedures themselves one day.
5. Assess your strengths and weaknesses.
As a recent graduate, obviously, there are certain clinical procedures you are more adept at providing. We recommend that you analyze your employer’s production report to determine those services that are being referred to area specialists. Usually, at the top of this list is Endo. So if you’ve had limited experience in Endo, we suggest that your employer enroll you in an Endo clinical program. There are a multitude of clinical programs available encompassing all facets of dentistry. The important thing is to be realistic in your clinical self assessment and make sure that what you learn can contribute to the practice’s growth as well as yours.
6. Schedule weekly meetings.
It’s important for the employer to serve as your “mentor,” particularly during the first six to twelve months of your affiliation. This frequent communication becomes particularly worthwhile for the employer if the associate plans to become a partner. Weekly meetings should be scheduled for one hour and the topics of discussion should include case presentation issues, challenging cases, and scheduling problems.
7. Schedule monthly meetings.
Monthly meetings should be held to review the business aspects of the practice. You should review your production reports, collection reports, accounts receivable reports (if applicable) as well as other reports that may be relevant. The employer gets the opportunity here to begin to coach the young doctor in various skill sets that are needed to become a successful manager.
8. Get to know your practice’s software program.
We recommend that the associate become familiar with various software features so that they are able to run various management reports, understand scheduling, etc. Developing this skill becomes more important if your associate assumes ownership or, as a potential partner, your associate becomes more involved in the overall management process of the practice.
9. Request an experienced assistant.
Chances are many dental students have not had the opportunity to spend many hours with a chair side dental assistant. It is critical for the new associate to work with an experienced assistant, particularly during the first three to six months of employment. The associate can learn a great deal from an experienced assistant. This is done not only for clinical matters, but for recordkeeping matters as well.
10. Marketing, marketing, marketing.
It goes without saying that if you join a busy practice, you may feel that there will always be an infinite supply of patients. So, the associate fails to engage in any meaningful marketing activities. To avoid this problem, get your associate involved in activities that can generate new patient referrals. Whether it’s coaching sports teams, getting involved in service clubs or participating in church and civic activities, these engagements place the associate in a position to meet many new people and increase his/her profile in the community.
In summary, there are many practical tasks an associate can accomplish, particularly in the early stages of their employment in your practice. There is usually extra down time for your associate to follow these ten steps, so have your associate be a proactive participant and the outcome will be a successful relationship!
Dr. Thomas L. Snyder is Managing Partner of The Snyder Group, LLC, a nationwide practice transition and financial management consulting firm. With more than 75 years of experience in the field, The Snyder Group can provide you a full range of services relating to practice transition matters and retirement planning. They can be reached directly at 1.800.988.5674.
If you would like additional help, email Dr. Snyder at email@example.com.
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