Thursday Troubleshooter: Dental assistant feels ignored, also discouraged from sharing her marketing talents

This dental assistant is generally ignored when she tries to share her ideas with her dentist-boss.

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QUESTION: I’m a registered dental assistant with a private office. But the truth is, I'm also the assistant office manager, insurance biller, treatment coordinator, and floor supervisor. One of the issues in my office is the lack of a marketing strategy and budget. It seems like every idea I have (I’ve read several articles and the ideas have been successful in other offices), no matter how inexpensive, have not been given proper consideration in my opinion. I’ve made suggestions, such as free platforms like Facebook to hiring a marketing firm. But management tells me, "Why pay a company to do what we can easily do?" Needless to say, the thought going through my head is, “So why haven't we done it?”

Do you have any suggestions on how I can get management to hear me? It feels like my boss has selective hearing with me. Whenever I try to bring up a topic she doesn't want to discuss, or I possess the information to discuss something, I’m cut short with, “We'll talk about this later.” Unfortunately, later never comes. I also feel the husband, who’s the office manager, and wife dynamic is detrimental to our success. As a result, in my seemingly uphill battle for financial success, I’m slowly losing hope that anything will ever be attainable. I’ve even submitted my resumé to a couple of offices in the hopes I can become part of a team that will use my potential efficiently. Can you share any advice with me so that I don't feel like I'm on a sinking ship?

At first glance this seems like simply a marketing question. However, the more I thought about your question it became clear that it is about something else altogether. Let’s tackle the marketing situation first.

Some offices are able to keep their marketing duties in-house with no issues. For many offices it’s necessary to either outsource the duties or hire a company to guide them. For a social media presence alone, you will need someone to design graphics, schedule posts, and reply to all correspondence. This is hardly a job to shoehorn in with other duties. Other marketing duties should include postcard design and deployment, community outreach and sponsorship, and partnering with referral offices in the area.

Keeping it in-house with a dedicated marketing coordinator sounds like a great cost-savings measure. However, it sounds like your employer does not intend to make it a full-time position. This tells me that you’ll be expected to do this on the side and between your other duties. The reality is that you’ll do the job in spurts, not because you won’t be dedicated but simply because of your bandwidth. I can give you two reasons why companies are successful helping practices manage their marketing—it’s not a practice’s strength and most practices don’t have time!

To nudge management toward being more committal to the process you could suggest that they work with you to create an editorial calendar. This is a guide to what you will post and when. Pull out a blank calendar and write down your ideas for certain days, for example, Valentine’s Day, summer, and back-to-school. Then set regular meetings to ensure these efforts are created and posted. After a few meetings, I suspect they will begin to understand that this is harder than it looks. Perhaps then your employer will realize that marketing deserves more attention.

I want to address the feeling that came through loud and clear in your question—you don’t feel appreciated and your frustration is growing. This is especially heartbreaking because you have great ideas and initiative. Being in an office that doesn’t use their talented staff in a good way can turn a great employee into a sluggish one. It sounds like you have doubts on whether or not this is your dental home. Your willingness to initiate and oversee a process is impressive. Many dental offices would very much appreciate an employee who has the experience to help with new projects.

I’m not encouraging you to quit but I don’t want you to undersell yourself. Dental offices are great places to work when the practice leaders believe in and empower their employees. Give the marketing project a chance, and hopefully this office can harness your enthusiasm. If they don’t and it doesn’t sit well with you, then perhaps another office is waiting for you. Good luck!

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Don't be shy! If YOU have a tough issue in your dental office that you would like addressed, send it to for the experts to answer. Remember, you'll be helping others who share the same issue. Responses will come from various dental consultants, as well as other experts in the areas of human resources, coding, front office management, and more. These folks will assist dental professionals with their various issues on DentistryIQ because they're very familiar with the tough challenges day-to-day practice can bring. All inquiries will be answered anonymously each Thursday here on DIQ.

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