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Appreciate Your Assistants

communication education gratitude hiring relationships team training Sep 10, 2022

There’s a shortage of dental assistants currently—almost to the point of emergency—so finding and keeping good assistants is of the utmost importance. I had the pleasure of interviewing Shannon Pace Brinker, CDA, and she offered this wisdom on making sure your assistants stick around: treat them well. If you have a good assistant, you don’t want to let them go, so show that you value them, and they will never leave you. 

Find the Right Ones

Before you can treat your assistants well, you must first find them. According to Shannon, taking a closer look at the ads you’re putting out is the most important action you can take. You don’t want to put the same ad together that everyone else does—that won’t do anything to make you stand out—so ask yourself what makes you different? Saying that you want somebody who’s available for 40 hours per week to do this, this, and this just doesn’t cut it—nobody cares about that. Tell them about what you’ve invested into your practice, the technology you have, the type of dentistry you do, and what specifically the assistant’s role will be. Think about the ad from the perspective of the assistant—what are you going to allow them to do? What about your practice is of value to them?

Make an Investment

Shannon noted that the secret to keeping your good assistants is investing in them. In her words, “We’ll stay with you forever if you invest in us.” Send your assistants to CE courses so they can learn new skills and improve themselves. Talk to them to find out what they love, what they do best, and what they don’t like to do. Figure out where they’d fit best in your practice and help them become the best in that area. When you invest in them, you inspire them to grow, improve, and invest in themselves. 

CE can be expensive, so if you can’t afford to send all your assistants, just send one. Invest in that one with the expectation that they will train the others; you can even send multiple assistants to different courses and then have them train each other. There’s a big problem with sending team members to take courses and then not asking them about what they learned—when you require them to teach what they’ve learned it creates accountability. There are also more affordable options for CE, such as Shannon’s Academy of Chairside Assisting, which aims to provide “CE in a box” at a great price for assistants who want to grow. 

There’s always the fear of investing in education for your assistants only for them to leave soon after, but it will truly help if you have a conversation with them and explain that if you invest in them, they need to invest in the practice. There’s nothing wrong with having stipulations for investing in people.  

Investing in CE for your assistants will help them become better at their jobs, but it also shows them that you want them to know what you know. When you give them the chance to have the same knowledge as you it lets them become a sounding board for the doctor—someone they can bounce ideas off—because the treatment plan doesn’t just come from the doctor. Assistants sometimes see things a little differently, so when you put them on more even footing with you and let them voice their opinion with you, together you’re going to do the best dentistry you possibly can. 

Recognize Their Importance

It takes the doctor and the hygienist working together to really make the most of the technology in the office. We want all this technology, but without someone to learn it, utilize it, and own it, then it’s just going to sit there and collect dust. When you place an assistant in charge of a specific piece of technology, they’re going to be excited about it, learn it, and make sure that you use it. Assigning roles to your team is important because it motivates them and makes them feel responsible. Give them a title and something to be in charge of, and they’ll see that you trust and care about them. 

Your assistants need to feel important, because often they feel like they’re at the bottom of the pyramid. I like to say that “People need to like who they are when they come to your office,” so don’t just take them for granted. Even a simple “Thank you” or opportunity to voice their opinion goes so far, because it shows their importance to you. Shannon speaks with countless assistants each year, and it’s not just about the money—it’s about how they’re treated and valued. They’ll take less money just to feel valued, but they deserve to be paid what they’re worth. 

If you want to thrive during this shortage of dental assistants, you need to make your office a place where they want to work. Show that you value their hard work, invest in them, and help them become valued members of your team. Reach out and schedule a consult with the ACT coaches so they can help you learn to find and keep great assistants, because a great team is essential for building a Better Practice, and a Better Life!

Kirk Behrendt is the CEO and Founder of ACT Dental

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