What does a typical day managing a dental practice look like?
Well the first thing to say really, is that no two days are the same – ‘curve balls’ constantly and consistently come along, smashing your well-laid plans to pieces. Be prepared for that and learn to roll with the punches, getting stressed or angry about this will only waste valuable time.
That’s not to say, however, that you shouldn’t be very organised, structured and strategic in your approach to managing a dental practice in the 21st century. Make sure that you are clear on the expectations attached to your role and that you have the support of your principal.
Going back to that initial question, below is a typical day for me that incorporates the above approach to try and make running the practice as smooth as it can be:
I get in before anyone else to try and help the team by making sure the front of house is up and running: printers and computers on with the appropriate programs loaded and ready to go, coffee machine prepped, day lists printed, etc. I also fill the autoclaves with water, switch all the equipment on and fill the scrubbing sink, this helps the nurses. In the surgeries, I switch everything on and make sure they are as ready to go as possible – after all ‘teamwork makes the dream work’, not to mention that I like to lead by example.
Then we have a morning meeting – nothing too in-depth, just 10 or 15 minutes as a team to look at how the day is going to pan out. We look at various aspects, including whether there are any patients to be particularly aware of, what lab work is due and white space for the coming days/weeks. This gives us a chance to actually talk to each other, as when everyone disappears off to get on with their day jobs we may not even speak again before the end of the day. I don’t want a ‘hi and bye’ scenario where team members only see each other briefly at the start and end of the day. That will lead to low morale and a feeling of helplessness – not good!
Once I disappear into the bat cave (my office), I crack on with a couple of daily audits. These tell me which patients have failed to attend in the last 30 days and what we are doing about that, along with a daily audit which looks at record keeping and medical histories, etc. against FGDP (UK) guidelines, for every patient from the previous day.
There may be other audits and compliance-based tasks that require attention. I have resigned myself to the fact that 40-50% of my time will be spent dealing exclusively with compliance-based management tasks – it’s not fun, it’s definitely not ‘sexy’, but it is absolutely necessary as the biggest risk to dental practices remains a failed CQC inspection. Imagine the headline on the front page of Plymouth Herald newspaper – “Hartley Dental Practice, deemed UNSAFE by the Care Quality Commission!”. OUCH!
I then come onto team management tasks, marketing/advertising/content creation, patient feedback, health and safety, financial management and chat to patients wherever possible. Let’s not forget that EVERYTHING everyone does in a dental practice should have the patient experience at the centre of that practice’s ethos.
I personally spend a good deal of time analysing the performance of the business with regard to patient satisfaction, income, profit and future planning. Dentistry is a service-based industry, the same as a mechanic, bingo hall or candlestick maker – we rely on members of the public choosing to procure our products and services to make a living, don’t lose sight of that! This is a daily task, which includes action planning for success or celebrating success with the team in any given area.
Keeping my ear to the ground with the team is also vital – I need to be attuned to any thoughts, issues, happiness or sadness within the team and keep communication channels open. I try to be approachable, but with an undertone of ‘use your initiative in the first instance’. I want the team to be empowered, but not isolated. I try to listen to understand, rather than just to reply with them – this skill is learnt, but nonetheless, essential!
So, in summation, managing a dental practice is certainly not all roses, but if you focus on the important stuff, plan ahead and communicate effectively with your team, you won’t go far wrong!