Coming out of dental school, many graduates seek advice on how to best approach an associateship and the responsibilities that lie within the position. Despite the confidence that comes from getting your degree, there is still a new world in dentistry to explore: working with a mentor, dealing with more patients, and applying yourself to the everyday hustle of a practice. However, there are many ways that you can either improve or learn new skills that will ensure that your associateship is a success. With time, you’ll be on your way to becoming a leader, and potentially be in a position to manage a practice of your own.
Take every advantage you can to become the best associate dentist possible. Courtesy of Dr. Bianca Velayo, a recent THE NEXTDDS webinar entitled “7 Simple Strategies for Successful Associateship” highlights seven ways one can positively impact the practice.
1. Cover Important Topics During the Interview
We’ve previously covered important qualities that practice owners want to see in potential associates, namely being eager and coachable, while remaining humble and ethical about your practice philosophy. We’ve also presented questions you should prepare for in your interview. During your interview, source some important leading questions that give you a better sense of the practice:
- What type of patients are seen and how is the treatment being presented?
- How long do associates usually last?
- What is the compensation?
- What type of technology are you exposed to?
- What does the typical day look like?
2. Recognize and Improve Your Interpersonal Skills
Communication is key to many aspects of your associateship: how you interact with patients, how you lead your team, and how you approach mentoring with your supervisors. Communication has several aspects to it: body language, tone, and the choice of words. Better understand how you can approach this important aspect of life. Are you choosing your words wisely and in an appropriate manner?
3. Building Patient Trust & Rapport
Working with your patients on case acceptance and compliance is another ongoing challenge for many less-experienced associates. There are many things one can do to make sure that patients trust you and your diagnosis. Work on educating the patient rather than selling them a treatment, and truly believe in your diagnosis. Respond gracefully to rejection by giving the patient options, your own medical opinion, and leading them to long-term success and production.
4. Be True to Yourself
Keep your priorities in line. What matters the most to you in life and your profession? Know that the associate dentist position has a learning curve. Manage your expectations in accordance to both this position and your own personal career goals. Don’t get too ahead of yourself and take this time to learn. You have to learn how to walk before you can run!
5. Improve Your Time Management
If you feel like you are having difficulty managing your time, go to your employer dentist or another experienced member of the team and ask how he or she manages time. What small changes or workarounds are they doing that you can leverage? Building up your hand speed is also a manner of time management. Track how long it takes you to do a procedure, and continuously chop at that time to set personal bests. As you note this, you’ll be able to easily recognize that you are indeed getting faster over time.
6. Providing Excellent Patient Care
To provide better care for your patients, look into continued education opportunities. Be a sponge that soaks up as much knowledge as you can to translate it into your approach chairside. Sometimes, practices offer such opportunities to staff members who seek continued education. Additionally, begin a mentor relationship with your senior dentists to better shadow their schedule and see how they go about their day. Join associations, study clubs, and other organizations both in and out of school that might help you continue this educational pursuit.
7. Readying for the Transition
As you prepare to leave dental school and find the next chapter awaiting you, grab your future by the reins and take advantage of the last resources available to you as an impending graduate and future alumnus. Network and explore events that allow for recruiting and potential employment opportunities, take a look at your financial profile and how you can best assess your future student loans. As you begin your associateship, continue to build your confidence practicing more dentistry, and you’ll be on the right track.
Overcome the challenges of an associate dentist position by taking a look at these seven steps. What can you improve upon? What have you not considered that may be worthwhile to explore? Build your confidence and skills and you’ll transition perfectly to your next career step. Good luck growing towards career prosperity!