The Office Manager’s Guide to Connecting the Trenches Between The Front and the Operatory
A friendly front office member greets a patient walking into a dental office; the patient follows the dental assistant who accompanies them back to the operatory, where the dentist is waiting.
It never occurred to the patient that they had just crossed a divide.
What divide? The imaginary divide between the BACK and the FRONT. The explanation is quite simple: “In the BACK” (AKA the Operatory) is where the magic happens! Like a perfect symphony, the dentist, the assistants, and the hygienists do their work in unison BACK THERE. The dental office lives and breathes BACK there. When the dental treatment is over, the patient makes their way back to the “FRONT”…it gets real. They need to pay. The fun is over; financial clarification is required.
Meanwhile, the phone rings, and the admin team must find time for emergencies, canceled appointments, and everything in between. They need to clarify something to the patient standing in front of them, and they want to say yes to the person on the phone. Oh, and by the way, sometimes they do say yes to everyone! They do so to the entire office’s chagrin, as they are then asked: why did you put them in THAT slot?
Hence the division of trenches. The entire team is trying in vain to keep the vessel afloat. How many times have we heard “What is not acknowledged cannot be resolved”? The FRONT is steering the ship to on-load the needs of the patients. The clinical team reciprocating hard to bring service and treatment to these patients on time; unfortunately, what is lost in the translation is that everyone is rowing in the same direction; but they don’t always realize it.
HOW CAN WE ACKNOWLEDGE OUR GOALS AND EXPRESS OUR SAME VISIONS?
- Revisit our common values
- Become present in our work
- Understand one another’s position and job descriptions
- Be less judgmental
REVISIT OUR COMMON VALUES
A team that agrees to work together must have common fundamental values:
- Strength of character
BECOME PRESENT IN OUR WORK
- Leave our home life at the door (barring a catastrophic situation)
- Remain compassionate
- Stay away from distraction.
- Work systematically & methodically
- Stay focused on our area of work (i.e., the operatory & the front desk)
- Gain insight one another’s position and job descriptions
UNDERSTAND ONE ANOTHER’S POSITION AND WORK DESCRIPTIONS
Administrative staff should familiarize themselves with operatory treatment procedures so that you can better understand the length of treatments when booking an appointment.
Hygienists, assistants, and YES, dentists, should familiarize themselves with all things admin. If you are privy to having to negotiate all day with patients on the phone, you will appreciate why at times it’s difficult to say no.
If and when time allows, we should all take a trip down to the Operatory or the front desk. We should observe what goes on in our respective work areas and consider gaining insight with a birds-eye view to objectively discern individual situations.
Through communication meetings, we have put standards and protocols in place; we must go forward with trusting one another. We have done the work as a team, haven’t we? If so, we can believe that all actions taken by colleagues are for the significant good.
In conclusion, we can visualize our day as a voyage to a destination; we are taking this voyage with our team, and contributing with our uniqueness. We all want to get to the end of our day, week, or year, feeling satisfied with our work and that we have made a difference in not only our patient’s lives, but also the quality of colleagues’.
UNITE AND BUILD VS DIVIDE AND CONQUER
TOGETHER WE ARE STRONG!
Meet the Author
Rosa Pasquantonio, DAADOM has been in the dental field since 1980 and is currently the office manager for TGO Orthodontics in Westmount, QC, Canada. Since 1998, she has dedicated her professional life to helping create and perfect “The TGO Way”. She holds a certification in Administration and Human Resource Management from Concordia University. Rosa is a lifetime member of the American Association of Dental Office Management, (AADOM), and in September of 2021 was inducted into AADOM’s first class of Diplomates, earning her DAADOM designation.