There’s a New Associate in Your Office…Now What?
As a dental office manager, you will (more than likely) one day encounter the task of adding a new associate to the practice.
Whether your current doctor is looking to grow the business or plan for retirement, this phase can be exciting yet daunting, especially if you’re not prepared.
Here are some essential steps and guidelines to help equip you with a plan for successful results when and if you encounter this moment in your dental practice management career.
1. Find the right candidate for your practice
Occasionally, a seasoned dentist with several years of dentistry under his belt is preferred.
Still, usually, it’ll be a new dental school graduate joining your team.
The first objective for the senior doctor should be finding someone who shares the same values concerning patient care.
This vision should be established during the interview process when the established doctor shares their mission and core methods of the practice.
Recruiting a new associate who’s receptive to adopting the culture you’ve worked hard to create will help ensure a smoother transition and longer-lasting partnership.
2. Introduce the new associate
Once the decision has been made, and an associate is hired, the next step is introducing the new dentist to your team.
This can include:
- An informal lunch
- Meet-and-greet before their first day on the job
In addition to your team, it’s especially important to familiarize patients with the new doctor.
This process will take some time and patience, but introducing them to the patients will hugely impact how they respond to and accept the new associate.
This transition will be significant as the doctor begins building relationships with patients and boost confidence where needed.
3. Laying the foundation
After introducing the new associate, it’s time to get them acquainted with standard practice operations.
Before scheduling them with any patients, provide the associate with a few days to observe the owner/doctor and team to understand the “flow” of the practice.
Take time to show them the systems you have in place and why you do things the way you do.
Remember, a new graduate usually does not have any experience with “systems.”
Since the new doctor will need patients in their chair, as the dental office manager or administrator, be sure to initiate a planning session with your established doctor.
During this meeting, work with the doctor to determine which patients and procedures they will assign to the new doctor.
Start by scheduling them very lightly until you know how long it’ll take the associate to complete each procedure.
The simplest service in dental school was completed in multiple steps over several hours as professors had to scrutinize each step before moving to the next.
One of the most CRITICAL steps to ensure the success of your new doctor is to pair them with your MOST EXPERIENCED assistant.
Your new doctor most likely didn’t work with an assistant in dental school.
This will be vital in:
- Building their speed
- Increasing production
- Impacting their sense of achievement as they embark on their dental career
4. Developing leadership and management skills
Business and management are critical factors in leading a practice; however, they’re almost always overlooked in the dental school curriculum.
Soon after becoming an associate, the new dentist should be given an opportunity to acclimate to the “business side” of dentistry, learning how to handle the practice’s day-to-day operations.
With a minimum of 6 months in each area, the associate should rotate learning and performance within the following responsibilities:
- Supply ordering: Becoming familiar with the supplies that need to be ordered in each department and conscientious of keeping the costs in line with industry-standard percentages.
- Accounts payable: The new doctor should support the owner doctor in paying the bills, so they understand all of the expenses involved in owning and running a practice.
- Submitting payroll Knowing when payroll is scheduled, calculating the hours of each team member, and either processing checks or submitting data to your payroll company. Show them how to be mindful of payroll expenses according to industry standards.
- Participation in team meetings: For your monthly team meetings to run smoothly and be productive, the doctors must participate. If the associate appears disengaged, they lose an opportunity to step up as a leader and won’t earn respect from the team.
5. Mentor…mentor…mentor… AND walk the talk
Your senior doctor’s consistency in mentoring the new associate is the KEY element in ensuring a successful transition.
It’s easy for owners to get caught up in their everyday routine and become remiss in coaching a new doctor. Please be aware of this step.
Give the senior doctor a nudge if you notice a fallback in coaching or the new doctor is struggling.
This step is truly the most effective for a dental office manager to support the onboarding process.
The new doctor will need guidance in everything from diagnosing to communicating with their patients and team members.
Remind your primary dentist that it is essential to lead by example; the junior doctor WILL mimic their behavior, whether good OR bad.
Having a valuable mentor who fosters professional development will give the associate a feeling of confidence, which adds value to your practice.
The addition of a new associate can be an excellent experience for your practice. Or it can be a disaster.
As a dental office manager, you must support the process every step of the way by having the ability to see the WHOLE picture on a day-to-day basis.
Meet the Author
After 21 years in the floral industry, lifetime AADOM member Monica Payne, DAADOM, found her true passion when she made the change to dentistry in 2012.
She is a practice administrator for a multi-location practice, Lifetime Dental, PLLC… This text opens a new tab to the practice’s website… in the Mississippi Delta.
In addition to managing the clinics, in 2018, she and her doctors started Surety Dental Solutions… This text opens a new tab to the company’s website…, where they provide team-building and consulting services, as well as file dental and medical insurance for other dental practices.