Sabri Blumberg - Dental Staff Turnover: How to Reduce It - MGE: Management ExpertsQ: How can I make sure that adding an associate doesn’t turn into a nightmare?

First you need to make sure that your practice is ready for an Associate. Can you afford one? Can you keep them busy? How are you going to use this Associate? Is your staff set up to support an Associate? You have to understand that if an Associate knew how to fill their own schedule, procure patients and get patients to accept treatment plans, they would most likely open their own practice, not work for you. Dr. Winteregg covered the major issues regarding associates in a series of blog posts aptly titled “All About Associates.” So my first suggestion would be to read these. Beyond that, providing that you are ready for an associate organizationally and financially, then the only thing left that could turn this relationship into a “nightmare” is hiring the wrong associate for your practice.

So, how do you know if you have the right or wrong guy or girl? Well, there are four issues that I would view as potential “deal breakers.” They are:

1. The attitude and personality of the Associate
2. Clinical skill
3. Clinical Philosophy
4. How fast he or she works

Number one is simple. This is a doctor so they should be a nice, personable human being with a warm heart. If you don’t get that from them during the interview, chances are your patients aren’t going to get that either.

(Related: The Do’s and Dont’s of Hiring Dental Office Staff)

Number two would require some way of looking at the associate’s work. You might work with the potential associate for a period. Look at pictures or models of some of their work. We’ve had some clients schedule their potential associate to assist them for a day or so and have them perform some of the work to verify their ability (and clinical quality) first-hand.

Number three is an important one. Dentistry can be subjective at times with regards to diagnosis and treatment planning. And while there might be multiple ways to skin a cat, you want to make sure that dentistry in your office is done in accordance with your philosophy. You can usually see this during the interview, but showing them X-rays etc. and seeing how they would treatment plan a case is also a good way. It doesn’t have to be exactly the same, but it needs to be close enough so that no disagreements or confusions arise in the future.

To understand number four, you’d have to see the spirit in which I say it. I am not interested in you creating a clinic where we “process” patients as quickly as possible. But there comes a point where a procedure can take so long that it’s simply not viable from both a business perspective AND a patient satisfaction perspective. A patient is not going to understand why it takes 2 hours to do a simple filling, when they are used to you doing this in a half hour. The associate doesn’t have to be blazingly fast clinically, but they need to successfully accomplish procedures in a reasonable length of time while maintaining high quality.

This is a subject I could fill an entire newspaper with, but I hope these basic points help!

(Related: Ask Sabri: Two Helpful Tips on Dental Staff Management and Training)

Q: I seem to have a lot of staff turnover. I don’t like it, and I’m worried that my patients will start to think poorly of my office. Any ideas on how to cut down on turnover?

In all my years doing this I have never found that patients will think poorly of an office because there is staff turnover. Usually if you fire a staff member the patients are as relieved as you are because that staff member wasn’t doing their job (hence the firing), and hopefully you replaced them with a staff member that will service the patient better. The only person that I’ve found who will attempt to make you feel bad about this is the same patient that asks you if you need to buy a new car or boat when you tell them how much their treatment plan costs. In other words—a miserable human being.

The bigger problem is that you are hiring people that you are then firing, which is bad for morale and productivity. Which means that most likely you are either:

1. Hiring the wrong person for your office,
2. Hiring the right person and not training them correctly, or
3. Not managing your staff properly.

All of these are executive problems. Number one is fixed by placing the right ad and interviewing properly. If you’d like some sample ads, email me at The second one: you need training materials and a proper training and apprenticing structure for new staff. The third one is solved by having a competent office manager who is trained as an executive and knows how to keep staff motivated and productive. Obviously you yourself need to be trained on how to run a business (be an executive), since your success unfortunately depends on how good of a business man/woman you are. #2 & #3 can be easily remedied with the MGE Power Program (shameless plug).