Thursday Troubleshooter: Is this dental assistant extremely underpaid?

This dental assistant is the dentist's right hand person in everything he does. He is assisted by only her in both his practice and assisted living faclity visits. Yes she's paid barely over $10. What should she do?

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Do you have a tough issue in your dental office that you would like addressed? Each week the experts on Team Troubleshooter will tackle those issues and provide you with answers. Send questions to megk@pennwell.com.

QUESTION: I’m a dental assistant in an office in which I work solely with one dentist, so it’s just him and me. I do all of the chairside assisting and front office work at his office. I also do a lot of the office management, receptionist work, and chairside assisting in an assisted living facility where he also works for an insurance company doing reviews, so I schedule those appointments as well.

I feel really underpaid. I earn $10.35 an hour. For everything I do I believe I should earn more. How can I bring this up to him? I work about 40 hours every two weeks at his office, and then 20 hours in the other office.

ANSWER FROM KYLE SUMMERFORD, Editor, Dental Assisting & Office Manager Digest, and founder of DDSGuru:
I hear this question quite often and unfortunately it is more often true than not—an assistant is overworked and underpaid. Many factors can determine how much money you should be earning. Variables such as working in a suburban community as opposed to a major city can pose some challenges and differences in salaries.

Nonetheless, I urge you to ask yourself these three questions:
• What job duties were you originally hired for?
• How much value have you added to the practice (and assisted living facility) since you were hired?
• How much of an asset are you to the dentist?

Once you answer these questions truthfully to yourself, you should feel very comfortable asking for a raise if you feel you deserve one.

To get an idea of what others are earning in your state, check out our Salary Calculator. I wish you the best of luck!

ANSWER FROM AMY SMITH, Amy Smith Consulting Inc:
From my experience as an office manager/jack-of-all-trades in a small office, from what you say, it does sound like you’re not being paid commensurately for the services you’re providing this doctor. What you have not said is how long you have worked for him, your licensure, if any, whether you have an employment contract, where the practice is located, or whether you receive other benefits in kind, to name a few.

Having said that, my advice would be:
• Approach him in private, at a "quiet" time.
• Do not place blame or speak out of anger.
• Tell him sincerely how you feel. Make a list of your duties and bring it with you.
• Indicate how you've helped the practice be more productive since you've been a part of it.
• Is there a union contract involved with the assisted living client?
• Research what other assistants are making in your area.
• Allow him time to respond. He might want to meet again at a later date. If so, make sure this is written down and agreed upon.
• Decide on the minimum you would like to make, and be prepared to leave on good terms if his answer is no.

If nothing else, this doctor has given you the chance to get experience in a lot of areas, and that should serve you well if you decide to seek a job elsewhere. But give him a chance. It could be he really has no idea how you are feeling and might gladly remedy the situation once he's made aware. It sounds as though you would be hard to replace!

ANSWER FROM JILL TOWNSEND, writeagreatbio.com:
From my experience as an office manager/jack-of-all-trades for a small office, from what you say, it does sound like you are not being paid commensurately for the services you are providing this doctor. What you have not said is how long you have worked for him, your licensure, if any, whether you have an employment contract, where the practice is located, whether you receive other benefits-in-kind, to name a few.

Having said that, my advice would be: Approach him in private, at a 'quiet' time. Do not place blame or speak out of anger. Tell him sincerely how you feel. Make a list of your duties and bring it with you. Research what other assistants are making in your area. Allow him time to respond. He may want to meet again at a later date. If so, make sure this is written down and agreed upon. Decide on the minimum you would like to make, and be prepared to leave on good terms if his answer is no.

If nothing else, this doctor has given you the chance to gain experience in a lot of areas, and that should serve you well if you decide to leave and seek a job elsewhere. But give him a chance; it could be he really has no idea how you are feeling and will gladly remedy the situation once he's made aware.


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Send your questions for the experts to answer. Responses will come from various consultants, many of whom are associated with Speaking Consulting Network, Academy of Dental Management Consultants, Dental Consultant Connection, and other expert dental support organizations. Their members will take turns fielding your questions on DentistryIQ, because they are very familiar with addressing the tough issues. Hey, it's their job.

Send your questions to megk@pennwell.com. All inquiries will be answered anonymously every Thursday here on DIQ.

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