HAS YOUR OFFICE EVER THOUGHT OF HOSTING A DENTAL ASSISTING (DA) INTERN? Whether you’re familiar with the process or you’re considering it for the first time, it's important to begin the experinece with a positive and informative approach. There are several advantages to becoming a DA hosting office, and establishing a relationship with the dental assisting school is one of the most critical steps in the process.
As you begin the process of hosting an intern, you need to determine if the school’s program is accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA). There are some differences between dental assisting programs that are or are not accredited. From the number of hours required to the evaluation processes, variances among DA programs are common. Decide which schools you would like to work with and why. Research them. Ask questions such as:
• What is the length of the program?
• When are the students available for extramural assignments?
• Will our office have a chance to interview the students?
• Does the school automatically place a student in our office?
• What skills have they been taught at the time of the assignment?
• What certificates, if any, will the student gain upon graduation?
• Does the school offer students career services?
This information can often be found on the school’s website or school brochures. Talk with your colleagues about the schools in your area to find out which ones are producing decent dental assistants. Ask which schools your staff attended, and perhaps your office would like to begin a relationship there.
If your office has been hosting an intern, have you been satisfied with the process or do things need to change? No matter where you are in this experience, it’s important that you touch base with the program director or internship coordinator.
When you first contact the program director, it’s important to have a few well-thought-out questions. This will eliminate the confusion surrounding the internship process. Do not assume you know how things are supposed to run. There are a few documents you must read before hosting the student, such as the “Memorandum of Understanding” or the contract. As an office, you agree to support the efforts of the school through furthering the education of the student. Ask what is required of you and your staff, as well as what is required of the school and student.
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Next, inquire about liability coverage on the student should something unfortunate occur. Do you need a copy of the insurance for your office records? Determine which important documents you will need to remain legally and professionally compliant. For instance, many offices forget to obtain a copy of the student’s shot record. Has the student opted for a Hep B series or did he or she sign a declination? Does your office need a copy of the student’s CPR card, radiology permit, or other important documents? As a hosting office, you do not want to jeopardize your practice in any way, so ask the coordinator which paperwork your office needs in order to remain compliant with state regulations. By doing so, you’re beginning your relationship with the school in an informative and trustworthy manner.
The student interview provides a chance to get to know the student. This interview is not for employment, but rather for a teaching experience. Make sure the interview reflects your office’s wishes to provide a learningatmosphere. During the interview, evaluate the student’s attitude toward his or her new profession and determine what philosophy the person is adopting. Does the student seem sensitive to patients’ comfort? Is he or she eager to gain more clinical skills? Also, explain some of your office’s expectations for the student by clarifying arrival and exit times, who the student’s supervisor will be, and any special rules or obligations you expect to be followed.
Finally, encourage and listen to the student’s concerns. You might be surprised at what students are most nervous about, and it isn’t always performance, but rather acceptance from the office staff. Make sure you are a match for each other. The student cannot afford to have a bad experience and neither can your office. When you have discussed the interview results with your team, either politely decline the student or have the person return for a warm welcome.
Forming a positive relationship with your local dental assisting program will ensure a continued partnership between your office and the school. By gathering all of the assignment requirements, the type of skills and credentials the student is trying to receive, and the necessary paperwork, your office will have a smooth experience. Not only will your assistants enjoy the teaching aspects of hosting a student, patients will be impressed by your office’s generosity to give back to the community. With a well-established approach, your office and the student can have a productive learning experience all around.