Dental practice talent shortages
Dental practice talent shortages can be addressed partially through retention efforts.
Dental practice talent shortages follow the same trends as other health care talent shortages. Some of the shortage is due to Covid. Just like other health care practices, independent dental offices are experiencing talent shortages. There were many challenges impacting dental clinics during the height of the Pandemic, which limited dental practice revenue and forced some dentists to terminate staff or give more responsibility to those staying on. According to the American Dental Hygienists’ Association (ADHA), “8% of dental hygienists have left the profession since COVID struck, and we have every reason to believe that the same is true for other dental office positions.”According to Dental Economics, the current labor shortage is driving a shortage of hygienists and assistants, complicating the hiring process and compounding the pre-existing human resources issues such as employee turnover and toxic office culture.
What can dental practices do to retain their staff?
Ideas for retaining staff can also positively impact recruiting staff. By creating a dental office culture that is employee team oriented and as flexible as possible, employees are less likely to burn out.
Other ideas for preventing turnover were provided in an article about Dental Practice strategies for managing through the talent shortages, in Dental Economics, by David Harris, he suggests:
Keep existing staff happy. The value of a trained, motivated staff member who knows the office and the patients is considerable. Be sure to respect that. Money is always a factor in job satisfaction, but other factors are often more important. For example, the extent to which an employee feels listened to is integral to job satisfaction.
Be proactive. Every dentist understands the value of a short-notice list for patients, but few apply the same concept to staffing. When an employee leaves, many practice owners begin a “cold” job search. Every practice owner needs to be continually looking for people who could be a fit for their practice. People you meet at conferences, patients of your practice, or that particularly attentive server you notice on a Friday night restaurant outing should all be filed away. Your short-notice job search will always be more effective if you have already identified two or three promising candidates.
Broaden your horizons. Many practice owners limit their search to people with dental experience. In a time of labor shortage, this further narrows the already-small pool of possible applicants. For a credentialed position like dental hygiene, it is obviously impossible to hire people from other fields. However, provided you have good manuals and other training resources, applicants outside dentistry can be considered for customer service positions.
Create a dental assisting school. While this is not a short-term solution, some dentists have addressed persistent shortages of dental assistants this way.
Be productive. Removing bottlenecks to productivity can allow you to function temporarily or even permanently with fewer people. Improving productivity could mean anything from replacing a 10-year-old workstation to adopting new patient communication software to using dental assistants for increasing hygiene output.
Outsource. There are companies that specialize in various front-office functions, such as submitting and following up on insurance claims, answering incoming calls, and providing customer service via the chat feature on your website. Top candidates to consider outsourcing are technical or potentially disruptive tasks.
Overstaff. While there is a measurable cost to having more staff on hand than you need, the cost of being understaffed can be much higher. Also, if being well-staffed allows you to enhance the patient experience (“Would you like some coffee while we are getting ready for you?”), then suddenly, instead of a cost, you have a practice-builder.
These suggestions are easier said than done, but are worth pursuing. In addition to working on retaining existing employees, dental offices may pursue HR and recruiting support. Some dental offices use DSOs, ”The American Dental Association Health Policy Institute indicates that 7.4 percent of all practicing US dentists are affiliated with DSOs”. The DSO model represents a more corporate function known as dental service organizations (DSO). These service organizations are independent business support centers, and they help with management and non-clinical activities, including HR and Recruitment.
If your dental office wants some help with HR and recruitment, you do not have to pursue a DSO. Hire Outcomes HR Hire Outcomes HR recruitment process outsourcing (RPO) service model is a hassle-free, turnkey solution for all your recruiting needs, at a fixed annual fee (billed monthly or quarterly) that greatly simplifies your budgeting. With Hire Outcomes HR turnkey RPO solutions, we take care of your entire recruitment process, from Needs Definition all the way through new employee onboarding. We will provide you with a helpful new employee onboarding checklist to help assure a smooth transition for your new hire.