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Last updated on April 25th, 2019 at 03:30 pm

Jeffrey Blumberg Chief Operating Officer at MGE Management ExpertsWith every profession we have our learning/schooling period and then we’re off to go about our business.

And to keep skills sharp (and stay legally compliant), most licensed professional arts (medical, dental, law, et. al), have some type of continuing education requirement.

And that’s all well and good. But…

Yes, there’s a “But.” Two actually:

  1. How many of those required CE hours were courses that were chosen due to intense interest, and/or a desire to add more skills to your “professional toolbox?” And,
  2. You’re having to learn. What about the rest of your team that has no professional requirement to continue their education?

I bring these points up as this entire learning paradigm in the dental industry needs adjustment. Why? Well, the general attitude towards continued learning isn’t conducive to success in private practice.

(Related: 5 Ways to Motivate Your Dental Team)

Dental practice management tips - MGE: management experts blogLet’s start with the doctor side of the equation.

Yes, you have CE requirements. And they vary depending on where you practice. And there are some incredible providers of clinical (and other CE) in both the US and Canada.

And while most doctors take a course they truly desire/enjoy every few years, what have we seen most often? It’s October and you have until the end of the year to get 20 hours in (you submit every two years), so, you scramble to find courses to meet this requirement. Some are good, some are not. Most are nearby, some might be online. But you need your 20 hours! And you get it, just in the nick of time!

What’s wrong with this picture? Not enough courses? Procrastination? A lack of desire for self-improvement?

I’ll answer this in a bit. But, let’s talk staff next.

The staff side of the equation:

You hire people. And train them to do their job in your office. And then…

For most, nothing. They just work.

And the only training from that point forward is “OJT,” (On the Job Training). After all, who has time to do additional training – we have WORK to do!

And believe or not, both issues (Doctor CE and Employee training), share a common problem. And that problem is: ATTITUDE

(Related: Try This in Your Office: Dental Lunch and Learn With Your Staff)

Attitude Adjustment

Most of us have heard the Socrates line: “I am the wisest man alive, for I know one thing, and that is that I know nothing.” And while it was probably disrespectful to refer to this as a “line,” (Philosophy professors and I never meshed all that well), it does bear some truth. Maybe you don’t know nothing, but I’ll tell you this: when I’m hiring, the applicant who “knows it all” scares me to death. And I’m not talking about someone who’s simply trained and qualified – I’m talking about the person who asserts that there is nothing of value for them to ever learn, ever, because they “know it all.” How can you train someone who already “knows everything?” And each time I’ve tried, it’s turned out poorly.

When someone has no desire to learn – which can come about for any number of reasons (hated school, feels like there is nothing to learn, etc.), there going one place: nowhere.

And let’s dig a bit deeper on this one. Learning takes time. It takes effort. You screw up in application and have to go back to the drawing board. I’ve seen plenty of doctors that want to “learn all about marketing,” by spending a half hour reading an article. Yeah…I’d say expectations are a bit “off” in these cases. Do you really want to learn about marketing your practice? Well, plan on spending at least a few days to get functional. And what’s a few days in the big scheme of things – i.e. a 30-year career? Not much. And you keep that knowledge, with updates from time to time, for your entire career – especially if you practice it.

So, while it doesn’t take all that much time to learn a skill like this, it takes more than most are willing to spend.

(Related: 7 Steps to Well-Trained Staff)

And that’s all part of this attitude problem. Sure, we can all regurgitate the “always be learning” platitudes. But how about really putting our money where our mouth is. How about making active, continuous, high-power training a part of our business model? Making it as important as paying the bills and filing insurance? Rather than relegating it to a bother, or something we “have” to do.

Let’s apply that back to CE and staff training. For instance, if I were a dentist, I’d plan my clinical CE with two criteria in mind:

  1. It would have to be something I WANTED to learn. If I referred endo out because I hated doing it (and never would), why take a course on root canals just to “make my hours?” I’d find something I could really get into. And that “want,” and desire would drag me though the tougher parts of the course – the time, the possible travel, any lulls in learning, etc.
  2. It would have to be something that I could or would USE in my practice to help my patients or the business (depending on the type of CE). Otherwise, why do it?

Of course, I would need these courses to be approved for my CE house purposes, but these courses are not hard to find.

As a matter of fact, I would ACTIVELY SEEK MORE TRAINING to continuously improve my skillset and adjust my schedule to accommodate. And I wouldn’t just apply this to clinical training. I’d apply this to ANY problem I had in the business.

With my staff, I would have regular training times established to further THEIR skillsets. It would be built into the schedule. And I would watch as my productivity, office morale and overall efficiency increased every month.

(Related: Ask Sabri: Scheduling, Bonus Plans and Training New Staff)

I deliver training for a living. And continuously improving my own skills is something I’ve lived in my personal and professional life for quite some time. And I’m not trying to hold myself up a shining example of anything, but I can tell you it’s definitely contributed to the quality of my life. I have a personal “mantra” that if something kicks my butt, personally or professionally I learn about it so it will never kick my butt again.

In 2008, I was using an investment professional to manage my portfolio. I gave money – they managed it. And while everyone took hits back then, I felt he took a far too passive role in protecting me. So, I dropped him, studied (as this affected my long-term survival), and began handling it myself. If I couldn’t achieve competency, I still would have studied but then found someone else. But I did learn, took control and did far better. Sure, this took time. I missed a lot of TV. But I won’t be yelling at myself about missing “Lost” or “24” in my golden years.

I’ve handled my career that way. Some new thing gives me trouble – learn about it and never have a problem with that thing again.

And this plays into the concept of “stress” quite a bit.

Training Reduces Stress

You’ll notice – people who are “stressed” about something usually cannot control that something. And that’s why they are stressed.

For example, if a doctor has no idea how to influence their monthly collections (i.e. collect a predictable amount each month), they will be “stressed” about it. Especially if they run into a shortfall. Show them how to manage their business, the stress goes away. You could apply this to almost anything.

And we also have this concept stated by many a famous person “Only worry about the things you can control.”

Well, again, I’ll speak to a doctor who’s terribly worried about some global policy change in an insurance plan in which they participate. It’s going to “wreck,” their practice.

OK. Well, can’t do much about that. But what can you control? Well, how about your ability to get fee-for-service new patients and effectively present treatment. Ah…but that would require learning something! For some, this is the wake-up call they need to get in gear. For others, it’s too inconvenient. So, let’s just hope the insurance company doesn’t screw things up too badly.

Personally, I have no idea how any doctor thinks they are going to thrive in private practice without a working knowledge of how to run a business. Doing otherwise is like walking a tightrope – without a net – and no idea how to walk a tightrope. You’re on the hook for hundreds of thousands in loans, untrained staff can do things that can get you into legal or professional trouble, and you’re completely responsible for your financial livelihood.

Sure, some people seem to “glow” it right. But many with no idea struggle or just go along never realizing their potential.

And I have news: you’re not going to learn what you need to know by picking up a “pearl” here and there. Sure, you need to be most learned and professional at your profession: dentistry and that’s why you spent years in school, and more CE on top of that. It’s what you charge patients for after all, so, you’d better know it.

But the doctor that really succeeds? Has a semi-professional, bordering on professional knowledge of every aspect of business: management, hiring, finance, marketing, sales, etc.

And extend this further to your staff. Why shouldn’t they keep learning. My staff here at MGE are allotted five hours a week (out of 40) for training. And this isn’t random aimless learning. This is learning they can apply immediately to their jobs. This creates an environment for potential growth and promotion – and longevity and career fulfillment.

Try (or…just do it) allotting time for staff training. Maybe it’s one morning a week. Maybe you send them off for a course or two.

If you’re looking at coming to MGE, you might want to start you and your staff off with some online training. You can try our online platform: DDS Success (www.ddssuccess.com). Not everyone can travel due to commitments at home and this is at least some training. Set up time for them to do it and roll.

But whatever you do – this is really a case of you need to do SOMETHING. Maybe it’s software training, customer service training. Maybe educating them on dental procedures (see this video from our Expansion Executive Jeff Santone for the Staff Lunch and Learn).

Pushback

The primary pushback I get on taking time out for training is usually TIME. There’s “no time,” “we’ll lose production.” And so on.

Well, look I could hit you with a million stories. But I’ll summarize with this: many MGE clients spent several days a month out of their practice while they get through their training. Yet, production and collections still go up. A lot. I’ve even seen it where they keep taking these days off when they finish the program to spend time with family, take vacations, or do more clinical CE. Things were rolling fine so why change?

Ultimately the more trained you and your staff are, the more efficient you become – which means you all get more done in less time (and have a heck of a lot more fun while doing it).

I hope this helps! And here’s to a more productive practice!

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