The Nitty-Gritty Details of SOP Writing
Part 3 of 3
This is the third part of this three-part article series aimed at discussing the importance of dental practice standard operating procedures (SOPS) for the administrative team. If you have not read part one or part two yet, you can read them by clicking the links above. In SOPs part one, we considered the four “P”s of why your administrative team needs SOPS: to identify parameters, measure performance, increase productivity, and provide protection. In part two, we discussed the steps to develop your dental practice SOPs using the Brain Dump Technique, four frequency-of-use categories to prioritize, and drafting your first SOP.
In this third article, we will get into the nitty-gritty details of SOP writing.
Prior to writing your SOP, refer back to part two to review the steps in preparation for writing:
- Create a detailed list
- Collect information
- Research additional information
- Utilize evidence-based research articles as appropriate
- Seek input from team members
Define the Desired Outcome of the SOP
Every SOP should provide detailed instructions so that any team member can read it, follow the steps and perform the task with the same results every time. The desired outcome of the SOP is based upon the title, which should be well written so that it can be easily located in the SOP manual.
The Desired Outcome restates a version of the title and expands upon the reason for the procedure. Example: When coming up with your desired outcome, it is helpful to think of starting the statement with the phrase: “This SOP will lead to…”, and for the sake of space when actually writing the SOP, I suggest eliminating those words and simply writing the desired outcome, “Patient satisfaction with the new patient experience in our practice so that patients become raving fans and refer their friends and family because of the excellent care they received” where “This SOP will lead to…” becomes implied.
Select and Use a Standard Format
Use a standardized format/template. I recommend including:
- Title: Clear, well-written title to inform the reader of the content of the SOP and aid in locating the SOP in the SOP Manual
- SOP #: Helpful when creating a large number of SOPs and further subdividing if desired into 1.0, 2.0, 3.0, etc.
- Revisions #: Ideally, SOPs should be reviewed and updated annually or whenever new information is available
- Implementation Date: The date the SOP is/was implemented
- Last Reviewed/Update Date: To track annual reviews
- Approval: Use if you need approval from a supervisor or dentist
- Pages: Number of pages in total (ie 1 of 3, 2 of 3, etc.)
- Department: The specific departments to which the SOP applies are noted under the department. Departments may include Admin, Hygiene, and Back Office. The Dentist’s SOPS may be included in the Back Office or have a separate dental department.
- Desired Outcome (or Objective): See above
- Measurement (or Accountability): Describe how you will measure if the SOP achieved what you set out to do. Ask who, what, where, and how.
– List of supplies/necessary tools – some SOPs will require a list of supplies and others will not; use your judgment.
– Directions or Instructions/Procedural Steps – This is the bulk of the SOP; here you describe the detailed steps of the instructions, including rationales, any special notes, exceptions, alerts, etc.
- Attached are manuals, photos, letters, forms, and postcards – if you have any additional documents to attach to the SOP add “ATTACHMENTS” on the SOP and then list out the specific attachments.
- Resources – always list your source for your content. This way, you can go back to the source when it is time for the annual review or update when needed.
- Name and Path of Document: This helps in locating the SOP digitally if you have print copies in a hard notebook-type manual.
- Date: It’s helpful to have this auto-update whenever you make changes to the document. In a Word document, Select: “Insert.” Select: “Date and Time.” Then select: “Update Automatically;” Lastly, select: “Okay.” Just remember, anytime you work on the document, it will update the date.
Once you have completed your detailed SOP, refer back to part two of this series and follow the steps for how to write an SOP.
- Review what you have written – I like to read it out loud to myself to see if it makes sense; I also seek input from other team members.
- Independent performance – Ask someone who has never done the procedure to perform it and ask for their input.
- Edit – Make any changes.
- Finalize the SOP – Take it to print!
- Train your team
- Review annually and revise as needed.
Once you have developed your step-by-step SOP, you can create your checklist using a bullet point summary of the key components of the procedure. This checklist summary is a great tool to keep at your desk on a clipboard for easy reference until you become familiar with the procedure.
Please email me if you would like a copy of the SOP template we use in our practice or a sample of the New Patient SOP.
About the Author
Debbie Jones, RN MN, FAADOM is the Practice Administrator for her husband Mike Jones’ General Dental Practice in Newport Beach, CA. She joined him because they thought it would be a good idea for her to help cover for the Admin Team. Little did she know that her career would transition to full-time dental administration.
Debbie is a lifetime AADOM member and received her AADOM Fellowship, (FAADOM) in 2021. She loves learning and has attended every conference since 2018 when she joined AADOM. Debbie is on track to receive her AADOM Mastership, MAADOM, in 2022.
Debbie Jones RN MN
Michael Jones Dental Corporation
1401 Avocado Avenue Suite 603
Newport Beach, CA 92660