When There are Higher Mountains to Climb

Teams rallying during COVID challenges

I was reminded yesterday as I escorted my daughter to her 6-month recare visit of the new responsibilities that have become the new normal in the dental environment for the past 9 months that Covid-19 has entered our lives. The BP and temperature checks, the pre-procedural rinsing, etc. all occurred prior to even getting back to the treatment room.

The shifting of patients and guests in the reception area in order to minimize any co-mingling, the phone calls and texts that are sent to and from those waiting in their cars or away from the office, all done in an attempt to keep everyone distant.

Then we get seated. There are the added measures that the clinical and hygiene teams are required to take. This is not to say that we had not been overly aware of asepsis and infection control before this pandemic–our awareness has always been stellar in dentistry. Ramping up our game is necessary now, and the steps we must take (and unfortunately the added expense) is something we just can’t avoid.

So, what does this mean to the stamina, and in many cases, the emotional level of doctors and team members?

I’m not going to sugarcoat this, because it can be tough and demanding on everyone. And the big thing to consider with it all is that our patients–as the commercial once said–“Should never see us sweat”. They count on us to make their visits as comfortable and non-threatening as possible while we are now administering new protocols and basically asking more of them.

Now it’s time for the shout out!!

Our visit yesterday was with my longtime friend, Dr. Diana Batoon of Scottsdale, Arizona. Once we moved from Tucson to the Valley last month, we could finally establish ourselves as patients. It was clear to both Shari and I that she and her amazing team really have it mastered! Our visit was seamlessly executed, and everyone was in concert with each another. This was Shari’s first visit, and with her special needs in mind, they didn’t overwhelm her and considered her specific special care while managing the additional duties added to their repertoire. She left the office smiling and filled me in on all the aspects of her visit.

The team is appreciated. The team is respected. It is so obvious that they enjoy working together and clearly learned how to budget their time. I had the pleasure of placing a number of these awesome people who managed to take a minute to acknowledge me, although briefly, as they mentioned that “they have patients to attend to.” I understand and grasp the fact that they have a lot on their plate, but it was no surprise to me that the flow of patients was smooth, giving the team ample time to oversee their posts. They worked together well, each understanding their jobs and jumping in to help others if/when necessary. This is paramount when it comes to being sure that everyone can uphold their added responsibilities.

Needless to say, Diana is not at a loss for patients. The practice dynamics and culture make it easy to choose Bonita Dental for one’s dental care. This is not necessarily a sales pitch, but the observations I made proved to me as an outsider that team members will rise to the occasion as long as there is proper support from the top!

Job Sharing/Passing the Baton

An Option for Covid-19 Team Development

Back in the mid 80’s I was a single mother of three with 2 daughters in school and a son who was pre-kindergarten.  Unfortunately, as a single working mom there were few options as far as daycare.  Private children centers had not come to prominence as yet, and the only choice we had was for a family member, friend, neighbor or paid babysitter to help care for our young.

I was working in dentistry at the time, holding a position in the business office. I was fortunate to have a wonderful neighbor with a morning kindergartener who kindly offered to watch my son.  I was so grateful and she was appreciative of making some extra money.  The only challenge was that she was only able to assist me from 9-1 while her child was at school.

I was working with a wonderful, caring dentist at the time and between us we decided to find my “counterpart” to manage holding down the fort from 2-6.  It was an unusual approach for our industry, but we both felt that with the right “partner” it could be a winning situation for all.  And now that I think about it, this was my first exposure to dental team hire.

Placing an ad in the newspaper was the best alternative then, and I was fortunate to find a perfect ying to my yang!  We worked together for two years.  From one to two was the lunch hour for the doctor and team, which gave Delores and I time for the “transfer”, as we called it. I would fill her in on the morning happenings from appointments scheduled, follow-up calls, the insurance I had submitted, etc. We really became a wonderful team as we passed the baton back and forth.  I would come in prior to the morning huddle and read her notes and the happenings from the past afternoon and be well prepared to start the day. The only thing we regretted is that we never actually worked side by side very much, other than the days we would return from vacation or holidays and both arranged to make this special time .

Do you remember the saying “when everything old is new again”? Well, I believe it may be time to look at some past approaches to business and apply it to our current hiring conundrum.

I realize that many of you will be saying, “if we are having problems locating employees, how are we ever going to hire two for one position?” I hear that, and I respect your concerns. But here’s some valuable information I’ve gathered from the many dental professionals I’ve interviewed and talked to over the past 5 months or so.

Many dental professionals want to return to work, but they are now faced with new challenges.  The childcare  options they have had are no longer there.  Many are not totally comfortable to work a full 40 hours.  For many employees, getting back to the workplace has gotten complicated, difficult, and costly.  And yes, let us not forget the fear factor–spending 40 hours per week in the dental environment is a concern to some as well.

Perhaps reinstating Job Sharing could resolve some of these issues and help dental practices to recover the manpower that has been weakening over the past few months.  I know how much employer/dentists have been struggling, as I’ve been working diligently to locate and onboard new employees.

If anyone is interested in learning how to orchestrate Job Sharing, please send me a private message and I’ll gladly fill you in.

Working Interview vs. Skills Assessment

Why not consider skills assessments?

I replaced Working Interviews with Skills Assessments over 15 years ago. My clients have genuinely appreciated the shift and job candidates applaud the concept as well. In light of the pandemic I believe this approach to evaluating potential team members as well as the potential employees having the opportunity to evaluate the practice, is even more critical than ever before. Those that have not worked with me have been inquiring as to what the difference is between the two. Here is an overview of both systems that I hope will illustrate how they differ .

Challenges with the Working Interview

· How has the decision maker (dentist/owner) had the opportunity to truly evaluate the candidate while they are conducting business and treating patients? Receiving secondhand information from current employees can be skewed, slanted or inaccurate.

· How does the job applicant evaluate the practice culture/style while they are trying to navigate through the working interview on their own? Typically, little direction is offered as team members are busy supporting their jobs and managing their responsibilities.

· Not having some form of control can be dangerous, particularly in the case of reviewing a business office position. Often this person is alone at the front desk, or at best accompanied by another employee who will infrequently check in and out, enabling visibility to records including health histories, social security numbers, credit card information, etc.

· We are all hoping to locate employees that are structured and organized. Without exhibiting structure, not only is it difficult to evaluate the candidate, but those of value do not find the traditional “Working Interview” a beneficial way to evaluate if this is the environment in which they can see themselves long-term. I believe that Working Interviews, as they have been orchestrated for years, do not support long-term commitments from employees, hence the reason turnover is so great within our profession. Neither the dentist/employer nor the job seeker can collect enough information during a Working Interview to assess if this will be the best business relationship for both. Conducting multiple days of WI’s is an option, although the way they are presently utilized, I do not feel this is necessarily the answer to longevity.

Advantages of Skills Assessments

· They are conducted with structure and purpose.

· In the case of Business Office candidates, they are conducted under supervision (safer for everyone).

· When evaluating clinical candidates, the job candidates will be given a “road map” to track responsibilities. There will be little need to ask questions, and this approach enables the

reviewer to see how well directions are followed, although they will have the on-going support of the team should they require help at any time.

· The dentist/owner will have a much clearer picture of the skill sets the job candidate is capable of. These would be comprehension, the ability to follow directions, ability to apply decision making techniques, how they manage their time, and their ability to prioritize.

· Unlike Working Interviews that are typically one day or even ½ day, Skills Assessments should be conducted for a few. *Check with your accountant or financial adviser as to the best way to compensate candidates based on legal standards.

Constructing Skills Assessments

Business Office Positions:

· I prefer that all business office Skills Assessments be conducted during non-patient hours.

· A document should be drafted to reflect a cross-section of the responsibilities this position carries.

· This event should be facilitated (preferably) by the dentist, associate, or a “trusted” employee.

1. Are they familiar with your software? If not, offer them a quick overview of the product you use and ask them to perform a simple entry or two.

2. Do you have various materials for New Patient Intakes, Health Histories, Insurance information, etc.? Set up a mock situation with them to see how they deliver the information where you are in the role of the patient.

3. Offer them typical scenarios (examples might be: Patient is questioning their bill or why insurance didn’t cover; patient that was scheduled for lengthy appointment is wanting to cancel at the last minute–do they quickly offer to re-schedule or do they attempt to rescue the possible cancellation?

4. Since the Skills Assessment is an extension of the face-to-face interview and conducted during non-work hours, the Labor Board does not view this as actual “work”, so it really is not necessary to compensate for this review although I HIGHLY suggest that you do. Customary WI compensation should apply.

Clinical Positions (Dental Assistant and Hygienist)

· Skills Assessments for all clinical positions should be conducted during the workday. The job candidate should be assigned to a team member as their “go-to” person during the process. It is possible to conduct a SA using a typodont and scenarios as well, particularly during the Covid-19 Pandemic when observing distancing and limited contact is important.

· A template and road map should be created for these positions as well and they should be supplied with this template upon arrival the day of the SA.

· Their team guide should initially offer them assistance on the basics. Examples might be: Where are supplies kept? Offer a walk-through of the sterilization process. Does the hygienist need to call on team members to assist with periodontal charting or is it managed via technology?

· The hygiene schedule should reflect as diverse a day as possible with varied procedures. Please do not overload the hygienist with back to back difficult prophies and quad scales. A cross-section of treatments is one of the best way to observe skills. Be considerate and do not take advantage of “your guest”, after all even with guidance and support it is still new terrain to them.

· The clinical assistant should have the opportunity to assist with an assortment of treatments

as well. Their “buddy” should try to balance the treatments they assist with as they share the scheduled procedures with the job seeker.


· Opening one’s practice to numerous job applicants can be more challenging today during Covid-19. Applying Skills Assessment techniques will also help to minimize additional exposure to others.

· The “quality” employees truly do appreciate this format, which can be an indicator and a way of screening to the best behavioral styles to join your group.

· I also recommend as much “alone” time for the potential new hire and existing team to interact (without the dentist/owner). Many of my clients will have them go out to lunch as a group (unfortunately, during Covid-19 this is limiting)

· This method has proven to greatly reduce poor hires and increase long-term employment.

· The job candidates will be able to gather more information and will be more likely to terminate the process if they feel they are not the best fit, or that the systems and protocols do not align with their particular work style. Better to know sooner than later.

PPE (Please Practice Empathy)

Training our team and on-boarding new members

Integrating new team members has become more of a challenge today than ever before. As a result, I suggest we all need to regroup and take a step back. We owe it to the new hires as well as to ourselves to consider the approach to onboarding in a whole new way.

The myriad of adjustments required along with added precautions as to how we now practice, as well as re-adjusted protocols and systems make it near impossible to “support” a new hire efficiently and effectively as they enter your practice. After all, you are still trying to figure things out and learn how to streamline operations almost daily that had been working just fine for years. With all of you trying to get into a rhythm and a system, how can you possibly train and coach others new to your practice? Yet without your employees, how can we possibly function today?

How do we manage this? For starters with patience! Patience is incredibly important right now. Don’t expect a new hire to pick things up quickly and be 100% compliant with your practice culture and practice style while you are all involved in the learning curve too! The practice you created and maintained pre-Covid is not the same practice you are working in today.

I am so discouraged by some of my clients who are pushing their new hires to learn quickly so that they can help immediately. This is occurring while the existing team members are also trying to figure things out. No one had a playbook to work from, making things nearly impossible to hand off or share responsibilities with others. We are all taking things day by day and hopefully developing new ways of adjusting to learn how to manage things that in many cases have been done one way for years.

Based on the nature of our business environment, we all know that change is stressful and nerve-racking as dental professionals under normal conditions. Add to it all the other components that we are now required to oversee, and we have a prescription for heightened emotions.

Please show some patience. And if you haven’t been a patient person in the past, please try your absolute best to pull from within to attempt to display this quality. It’s difficult enough to locate dental personnel today. Not offering them a safe and welcoming haven professionally and personally and providing reasonable time to learn the ropes can assure you of a rapid turnover.

If you have been lucky enough to locate quality job seekers that are passionate about dentistry and value the position they hold within the practice, give them what they need to succeed and a little more time than usual to get into the swing of things.

Today many new hires are going to lack the attention we would normally be giving as we are all looking to find our way. Let’s all try to be kind to one another as we all navigate through uncharted waters.


Do you have a “Conscientious Objector”?

Watch for a pattern

I encourage my clients to involve the team in the hiring process whenever it is applicable.

I so appreciate those who step away to leave the team and the job candidate alone for an informal get together without the dentist’s participation. It is a great way for the potential new hire to get a feel for the practice culture and team energy.  For the team, it is an opportunity to get to know the candidate a little better without having to contend with the activity of the day to day business operations.  This event should immediately follow the doctor/candidate face-to-face interview and precede the Skills Assessment (my equivalent of the “Working Interview”).

I find it interesting, and quite frankly a bit revealing, when one team member more than the others voices a negative opinion frequently as candidates go through the process. While we should always welcome objective feedback, I’m always a bit suspicious of the one team member who objects more than the rest. And what exactly are their concerns? Is it something personal or is it based on something factual that they personally have experienced with this individual.

Background checks and drug testing should be basic hiring protocols but having a personal vendetta or some type of envy are things that should raise red flags.

Evaluate concerns closely and objectively. I suggest that if the one “thumbs-down” comes from the same team member consistently, perhaps there is an overall issue that is hidden and not necessarily one that is based on whether or not this individual would be a fit for the practice style.

I suggest you go directly to this particular team member and see if you can determine where his/her actual concerns are coming from.  Could it be that he/she is threatened? Might he/she be worried that they will have to take a back seat? Does he/she see the group as an elite “clique” with no room for additional new blood?

Whatever the reason, keep in mind that not only should the majority rule, but it is the leader/employer that should ultimately make the final hiring decision while closely examining team member objections–especially if it recurs with one particular person over and over.

Why Am I Not Getting Hired?

Perhaps it’s Time to Evaluate How You Are Approaching the Process

I hear this question often and felt I’ve been overdue in addressing why this may be happening.  I’m particularly amazed when I hear this, given the fact that the market is rich with dental job opportunities.

Let’s start with this:

As a Job Seeker do you believe you present yourself in the best light?

If you are a tenured dental professional do you highlight your accomplishments? And yes, a near perfect attendance record counts as well as showcasing your strengths, i.e.; “I’ve been told my cosmetic temporaries are excellent! My ability to maintain patients’ attendance (excellent confirmation skills) and low collection rate is one of my hallmarks.”

If you are a new grad with little or no previous employment history to offer, are you able to transfer some of your strengths and skill sets from past work experiences that could be applicable for this new position? Attention to detail, the ability to prioritize, strong verbal skills or even simply “I find it very natural to smile and be positive every day.”

Let’s talk about the process itself:

  • Do you submit a resume that is well constructed, free of typos and comprehensive?
  • Once you apply for a position do you pay attention to responses that may come in via email and phone?
  • Do you return all correspondence from interested employers efficiently and as rapidly as possible (you snooze you lose).
  • Are you prepared to receive phone interviews? Are you there to take the call and in a quiet place where you can be responsive (not on a cell phone in your car)?
  • If you are offered a face-to-face interview do you show up on time? ACTUALLY IT SHOULD BE EARLY!!
  • Are you dressed professionally for your interview with a clean resume in hand (in a folder if possible).
  • Do you ask pointed questions at your interview and do you conduct some due diligence on the practice so that you are equipped to interview as well as to be interviewed?

Can you truly look in the mirror and say “I do believe I am doing all that I can to make myself hirable.” If you can’t respond positively to all of the aforementioned situations then perhaps you are not as ready to be hired as you think you are.

Try Creating Long-term Business Relationships

Minimizing employment turnover


It’s the time of year that historically marks one of the biggest shifts in dental team structure. The turnover!
Employers will typically wait until the end of Christmas before they dismiss employees. Employees will typically wait until the end of Christmas to see if they receive the increase they were expecting or at least receive the bonus they were hoping for.


With this–the scramble is on!


Ads are being placed and hiring search engines are buzzing, while job seekers frantically seek out the position that will deliver all they have been seeking in their new (forever) employment.
What about attempting to put a stop to this holiday madness and consider creating some stability in your practice?


Employees, how about creating a work history with long-term employment? What about a resume that depicts less short “stays” and rather substantial employment commitments? I believe that both employers and employees can enjoy less “job movement” and more lengthy, healthy business relationships with some system adjustments.


Think of the time and money that everyone will save, not to mention the peace of mind.


It starts with three words that will reverse the paradigm which are: Take Your Time!


Employers–TAKE YOUR TIME to plan out every step of the hiring process from the mode used to attract viable candidates, to the interview process, comprehensive on-boarding protocols, and of course continuing employee maintenance.


Be prepared to do things the right way this time.  It’s YOU that determines salary and not the employee.  Asking them “what they need, want, or made in their last job” is a recipe for major problems. Eliminate the Working Interview and replace it with a well thought out, structured Skills Assessment. Skills Assessments differ from Working Interviews in that the assessments allow both parties to better evaluate each other.  Giving both the opportunity to view whether this would be the best business relationship–one that would enable the employer and employee to build tenure and a long-lasting commitment where everyone will benefit!


Employees, TAKE YOUR TIME to conduct thorough due diligence in order to learn as much as possible regarding the style, culture and flavor of the practice. Be totally sure that the hours, days and location are acceptable prior to starting the process. Ask questions during your initial interview that pertain to the practice philosophy so that you are able gather valuable information in order to make an educated decision before you move to the next step. Stay present with the PROCESS and celebrate when a potential employer has one.


If you dread turnover/change from either the employer or employee side, perhaps it is time to consider doing things differently. Change is never easy for most of us, but if you find that nothing seems to change and you continue to walk down the same road year after year, I can assure you that IT’S TIME!  Best wishes and much success in 2020 to all!


Have You Ever Been a Scapegoat?

Venting anger is never productive

As we come closer to closing the book on 2019, I would like to reflect on something I’ve recognized that seemed to be more prevalent this past year than ever before.  I understand clearly what the catalyst is in this case. I believe much of what I personally have been experiencing is based on the fact that the pool of qualified dental professionals appears to be growing smaller. I can’t explain it, nor can any of my peers. And although there are still some wonderful, talented and valued dental professionals out there it does take longer to locate and identify them. It’s not only more time-consuming for me, but some of my clients are clearly losing their patience, and in some cases their faith that a reasonable number of quality dental professionals still exist. I continue to assure them all that although it is clearly taking longer to attract and vet job candidates, they are still out there waiting for us to find them.

Over the past few weeks I have had two clients venting their frustrations to me. “Why can’t you find talented, reliable, qualified, loyal, professional, non-money-generated candidates?”  I had one actually send me a scathing text in full caps sharing that he has one person leaving for better pay, one leaving for better hours and one leaving to have a baby—and added “now what am I to do?”

While I understand and feel his pain, I’m having a difficult time understanding why ranting at me is going to change anything. He closed by saying, “I’ve been in practice for 35 years and have never had anything like this happen before!” I was hurt initially but took a deep breath and realized that I have just become someone’s scapegoat. Once I calmed down I proceeded to respond by reminding him that: first, it isn’t the end of the world and that unfortunately this is one of the challenges of running a business; and second, that sometimes everything appears to fall apart at once, but it certainly doesn’t mean it’s the end.

There are ways of buying ourselves time by recruiting some temporary help while we search for the best candidates to fill the positions. I reminded him that venting his frustration in this way will clearly send a poor message to his existing team members, as there is no defeat here, simply a business challenge that will be addressed properly and resolved.

Challenges come at all of us at one time or another. Heaven knows I’ve had my share, but to take frustration and anger and direct it at someone else not only doesn’t solve anything, it will only make the mountain harder to climb, as it will then limit the support and respect you will receive from others just when you probably need it most.



Very Early Telltale Signs

Taking note of some early indicators

I believe that there is a lot of valuable information we miss early on during the interview process. There are signs that are indicators regarding what I call “soft skills”, which are vital during the job candidate evaluation period.

I realize that I may recognize more than most, but perhaps this is due to the volume of job candidates I have interfaced with over the years. I admit that I might be a little more particular than most too, as I have learned through experience that small signs can amount to big problems later.

What ever happened to a friendly, warm voicemail message?

It is not uncommon to call the number provided by a job applicant and hear an automated message that is created by the cellular provider. Why not at least a “hello, this is Suzie, thanks for calling”?

What about calling the number provided only to learn that the mailbox is full and can no longer accept messages? How telling is this?

Granted, on occasion this happens to all of us but it can clearly be a sign of someone who does not pay attention. Taking into consideration that this is a job seeker who you would think is seriously interested in this position would be even more aware of the opportunities lost from an uncleared voice mailbox.

What about receiving a resume without an updated phone number or address? Before the “send” button is pushed, this is something that should be checked (and re-checked).

I’m referencing the obvious, the things that should be an automatic. Areas that a forward-thinking, responsible job candidate should always consider when applying for a job. Keep in mind that the observations I have referenced are things that occur even before contact is made. Before a response to the job seeker is sent and before any interaction at all takes place.

Just think of what you have gleaned before you even step through the interview process. How valuable is this information when it comes to eliminating those job candidates that may not be worth your effort. Early discovery should not be overlooked and although it might pay to continue to move things forward, these small signs should not necessarily be discounted.

Conversations Go Both Ways

Speaking “to” each other, not “at” each other

As long as I can remember, the picture I see during the interview process has been “Job candidate sitting in a chair across from the interviewer waiting to be grilled”.

While gathering information about a prospective hire is important, why is it that we view this as a time for the employer to ask assertive questions and evaluating the employee based on receiving the answers they are hoping to hear?

It is equally valuable to the job seeker to have the opportunity to ask questions too, and yet it is so rarely done. Actually, some of the best interviews are a balance of questions and answers and questions and answers.  It’s more important to be “interested” than simply “interesting” for both the interviewer and the interviewee.

A recent post that I read in a facebook group I participate in brought this subject back to light for me. With this, I felt I would go into more detail as to why this rapport is so important to a well-structured interview format.

First, it is always important that the job seekers come to this meeting prepared regarding the practice dynamics, whatever history and background can be located via internet searches, etc.  I realize that many job seekers do this. But just gathering this information for their own benefit is one thing, as they should let the doctor/interviewer know that not only did they take the time to do the research, but are as inquisitive about him/her and their backgrounds, goals and interests as the interviewer is of the interviewee.

It is human nature to focus on ourselves.  We love when people refer to us by name. We light up when they ask questions, show their interest in us, and we really do appreciate those that seem to legitimately care about us and our well-being.  Some of us require more of this attention than others, but we would all agree that it’s important to all of us to varying degrees.

Additionally, it is important to consider what the questions are that are posed to the doctor/interviewer. There are some questions that are out of line and should never be asked, while utilizing information you glean via your internet searches are fair game.

“Doctor, I see you graduated from NYU Dental School.”  “Did you like the program?”

“I notice that you offer treatment for Sleep Apnea.” “I am so interested in learning more about that.” “Do you find that your CT Scanner has helped you to identify issues that you might have otherwise missed?” “What were they?”

My clients are always impressed when they interview job candidates that appear to be very interested in their practice culture as it reveals some excellent qualities in the person they are sitting across from.

Keep in mind that as job seekers, you will not have a way to anticipate the questions you will be asked, yet you can still prepare from your end with sensible, inquisitive questions that are bound to get you noticed.