Deborah Bell has more than 25 years’ experience working within dentistry, including 15 years in practice.
She has spent time in both NHS and private practices, and worked in numerous roles including receptionist, dental nurse and practice manager before becoming a Business Development Consultant at DPAS 10 years ago.
Here she talks about her experience in practice, including the move away from paper records, the issues facing practices today and the need to build morale and team sprit…
What is the most challenging experience you faced while working in practice?
One of the most challenging times in dentistry was around 15 years ago when, after returning from four months of maternity leave, I was confronted with my practice in the midst of changing from paper records to computer records. The work involved was immense, but after around a month I couldn’t imagine ever having to use paper records again.
How did you deal with the situation and what was the outcome?
Paper records were scanned and uploaded to the computer and the appointment books were transferred by the software company. We spent weeks uploading data and set up new protocols to scan new letters in and referrals out. Our old postcard recall system was thrown in the bin and we set up new daily print lists for recall; we were able to print out day-lists for a few days to ensure we could continue to operate even if the computer system went down and we held the paper records for the allotted time in-house.
The outcome was a swifter, more efficient front of house with a robust recall system. This ensured that the revenue stream for the practice was increased and the front-of-house staff had more time to spend with patients discussing their needs.
What has been your most memorable experience whilst working in a practice?
The principal dentist I worked for could see, even 20 years ago, the benefits of investing in our team and that saying thank you goes a long way to increasing motivation. My most memorable experiences come from the treats and rewards from that period: trips to Seahouses, a weekend in Edinburgh, bowling, a fantastic team-building event where I was literally pushed down a zip wire because I wouldn’t jump off!
We always worked hard and we knew we were appreciated. We knew that as a team we would be rewarded well, we were a fantastic team who loved our time together and I have fantastic memories of those days and nights out.
What are the biggest issues facing practice teams today, and how can they deal with them?
I believe the biggest issue has to be regulation, i.e. GDPR, the CQC, BDA guidelines.
For those working within the new NHS contracts, there’s also the challenge of hitting targets for UDAs. On top of that there is the increasing running costs of a practice, including considerations such as pensions and indemnity.
What advice do you have for practices looking to grow their business?
Attracting new patients is always important but don’t forget to look for the opportunity within the practice. Talk to your existing patients and ask them what they are looking for, and then try and find ways to provide that. And, as often as you can, ask them to refer their friends, family, and colleagues – a personal recommendation can be the best form of advertising for you.
If you could only pick one thing that practices should be doing in order to succeed, what would it be?
Keep your team on-side, a happy team is a key to your success. Happy team members are productive team members and are more likely to be loyal to your business. Plus, patients can pick up on any unhappiness within the team which can have a negative impact on their experience.
What do you enjoy most about working in dentistry?
I love that no two days are the same, and I love meeting new people and sharing experiences…mostly I love helping people find effective solutions to solve their business issues.