After working as an associate for a couple of years, you’ll start thinking seriously about whether to become an independent practice owner or remain an employee for your career. This is a personal decision and there really isn’t a right or wrong answer, unless you make the decision based on bad information. I’ve heard dental students and recent grads share a few misconceptions over the years about what it’s like for those who choose to become business owners. I’d like to set the record straight here. Here are the three biggest myths about owning a practice.
Every morning, I lead a “team huddle” in my clinic. The basic goal of the huddle is simple: to ensure that team members are prepared for the day’s scheduled appointments and procedures. However, the greater value of this huddle is that it sets the accountability framework for the day. Clear, measurable expectations are stated to our competent, diverse team of surgical technicians, nurses, dental assistants, receptionists and fellow surgeons. The team is encouraged to ask questions during the huddle to further clarify the plan for the day. All team members leave the huddle understanding what each of them must do to have a successful day.
Read on to find out what Dr. Hammer has been doing differently for better results…
The “Renaissance Men” were sublime combinations of artist, engineer, and scientist. They were masters of each discipline, and are considered the most well-rounded talents to ever draw breath. Truth be told, owning a practice is more like being a “Renaissance (Wo)Man” than you might think. In contrast to the masters, though, we receive highly specialized training in treating dental disease and very little about the “other stuff.” Every dental office is full of protocols and contraptions that are not covered in school. That is not a reason to exclude owning from the menu of options open to you after graduation! Here are five keys to unlocking the mysteries of the non-clinical aspects of private practice.
Right after a pediatric residency, I leapt into a thriving, bustling practice and from day one I was able to plug myself in with relative ease. It wasn’t until a little later that I realized my comfort in practicing in this practice centered on existing systems and personnel established by the leader of the practice. But how did the right people end up in their roles? How were they selected? How were they trained? These questions slowly became evident as I watched and learned.
As dentists, we’re in the business of prevention. But what happens when in spite of our preventive efforts, our patients develop a problem? We quickly move into damage control mode to protect our patients’ interests. Shouldn’t we do the same for ourselves?
That’s why we need insurance. When something happens, we want to control the damage and protect our interests. Would you ever consider leaving an auto dealer with your new car and no auto insurance? You have so much invested in your decision to become a dentist, and as a result of this investment, you have tremendous earning potential. Yet although you’d insure your car without hesitation, you still haven’t insured yourself.
Maybe you just don’t know what you need. Unfortunately, both of us got a quick education when we had to use our insurance plans early in our careers. We are hoping that our stories will help to illustrate which insurance coverage you need as soon as you get your license, and why.
For many of us, it’s in our nature to avoid uncomfortable conversations. Whether out of the fear of offending someone, hurting their feelings or being humbled by having to admit a mistake, we put those conversations off. But in our roles as health care providers, we can’t avoid conflict. We must be able to have the uncomfortable or unpleasant, but honest, conversation.
Dental students learn early on that they must learn to manage all forms of dental anxiety in their patients. While reassurance and a friendly smile can go a long way, effective communication is essential to helping patients feel comfortable in potentially stressful situations. In fact, many of us have already began working on these important skills before dental school, sometimes without even realizing it. I believe that the best way to maximize the development of your interpersonal skills is to immerse yourself in activities that require you to constantly interact with people, such as part-time employment.