Are you still looking for an associateship, searching to align your practice philosophy with an employer dentist who fits your approach perfectly? Or have you instead finally been able to lock in that associateship position and are awaiting your starting date? Wherever you land on the spectrum, there are many ways in which you can improve your personal skills to be a better associate once you join the dental practice.
If you’re apprehensive about this first phase of your career in dentistry, don’t fret! Courtesy of Dr. Bianca Velayo, this recent THE NEXTDDS live training event entitled “7 Simple Strategies for Successful Associateship” highlights several ways that a new associate or future associate can improve their preparedness.
Take a look at your interpersonal skills. Communication is a huge part of any job, and becoming an associate or eventual practice owner means even more connections between your staff and the patients you’re treating. When staff members look to you for leadership, and patients begin to put their trust in you, how are you choosing to best deliver your message? Think about the three basics of communication: body language, tone of voice, and your choice of words. If your communication needs work, focus on each of these fundamentals to build better social skills. In addition, establishing a good rapport with your employer dentist will be key to forming a lasting mentor relationship that will constantly be guiding you to your next steps both personally and professionally.
Build Patient Rapport and Trust
Establishing effective communication skills will translate into your conversations with patients. Make eye contact, have a firm handshake, and keep the patient comfortable. It’s also of importance to listen to their concerns and complaints. Lean in and get the patient to relay as much information to you as possible in order to determine an accurate diagnosis, and further continue the necessary steps into treatment and case acceptance. On your end, make sure to educate the patient on his or her treatment options, rather than advocating one over the other. Each patient is an individual with distinct needs, concerns, and comfort levels. Once you build a patient-centric approach, delivering treatment in an ethical way will become second nature. This will lead to long-term patients, referrals, and consistent production.
While it might be easy to treat patients like family members, there may be patients that are tougher to manage. It’s important to relay treatment options to them in a relatable way, and believe in your diagnosis so that patients can truly witness your expertise as a dentist. If they reject treatment, be assertive in your approach, and they’ll soon trust that you hold the keys to their health. If a patient has a broken tooth that needs a crown, and the patient instead asks you why he or she can’t opt-in for a filling instead, stand your ground. Patients who try to self-diagnosis may think they can take advantage of your youth or excitable nature to change the treatment plan. If you succumb to their wishes every time, they may lose trust in you. Be an assertive new dentist that stands behind their diagnosis.
You might be used to the three-hour block exams and treatment plans in dental school, but those days will soon be over. Patients typically don’t have that kind of time, so you should respect the time they take to come in for an appointment. As an associate, building speed and compliance comes with practice, practice, and more practice! Ask for help when you need it, be open to feedback, and try to become more focused with less breaks to help build this new skillset. Instead of relying on your smartphone, wear a watch to be aware and keep track of your time, and set reasonable goals to try to slowly trim the time it’ll take you to perform a clinical task.
An associateship comes with a substantial amount of responsibility, and a learning curve to overcome. Whether it’s becoming familiar with your duties, working alongside your team members, or coming face-to-face with patients that are in need of treatment right away, there’s a lot of different circumstances coming your way. If you make a solid effort to improve upon your personal tools, you’ll have an easier transition as you begin coming into contact with your peers and patients every day. Good luck and success in your associateship!