Content Dam Diq Online Articles 2016 09 Angry 1

Thursday Troubleshooter: Dental assistant doesn't deserve bad treatment

Sept. 22, 2016
This veteran dental assistant feels very underappreciated. But take heart. Team Troubleshooter respects the heck out of dental assistants, and assistants should realize most teams appreciate their contributions.

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 [email protected].

QUESTION: I've been an assistant for almost 40 years. The office I currently work in expects the assistants to multitask for the entire office. We answer the phone if the front office person is busy, take and develop x-rays for the hygienist, file charts, pull charts, order supplies, restock rooms, and any other job in the office to keep things organized. No one from the front helps seat patients, sterilize instruments, or clean rooms. Why is it that the assistants have to make time to get work done but the hygienist can just take her time? I too went to school to become an assistant. Assistants are the lowest paid in the office but the most overworked and underappreciated. We are looked down upon in the office as "just an assistant," but we're the people expected to do it all in the office. Why are we so unappreciated?

ANSWER FROM LAURA HATCH, Founder of Front Office Rocks:
First, as an office manager myself, I do not agree that dental assistants are looked down upon and underappreciated. I feel that the assistants are super valuable to the doctor and patients, and you should never feel that you are "just and assistant." Now, because I'm not in your office, I cannot comment about how the others treat you, but I can comment on working as a team and why dental assistants typically are asked to jump in and help.

As you know, dental assistants are usually the ones with the craziest of times during their day, as well as slow times during the day. Cross-training assistants or asking them to jump in to help turn over a room or sterilize can make a huge difference. That being said, I also feel that the front office team and hygienists should be asked to reciprocate when they have the time and ability. I think there needs to be teamwork between all departments and everyone should jump in and help when time allows and when asked.

Next, I would say that you should set a meeting with your doctor or office manager to discuss how you're feeling. You should let them know how you feel and see if your feelings are valid. If so, find out how some things can change in your office so you don't feel this way. If your feelings do not reflect how others feel about you, this will give you the opportunity to discuss how much they appreciate you and your efforts.

Dental assistants are so valuable to the overall success of patient visits, just like every other person on your team, and you should feel that way. I can tell you that every person on the team has times when they feel the way you do.

Until now, there was no place for dental assistants to go to express their feelings and feel heard. I highly recommend that you look into a new organization called IgniteDA, which just launched as a resource for not only talking with your peers about topics much like this, but to also have a resource just for dental assistants to grow and learn. I suggest you check it out, and please, never feel that you are just an assistant. You are vital, important, and should be proud of your career and what you do to help patients and doctors every day.

ANSWER FROM KYLE SUMMERFORD, Editor of Dental Assisting & Office Manager Digest and founder of DDSGuru:
As an experienced dental assistant, you should understand how much of a valuable asset you can be to any dental practice. But you also need to understand that dental practices are built and run on the foundation of teamwork. In most of today's dental practices, many owners are hiring people who are able to multitask and work both the front and back of the office. Multitasking is not something every person is capable of doing. At the same time, everyone should help each other. If you feel that you're overworked or you feel other staff are not doing their fair share, I recommend requesting an office meeting to discuss these issues.

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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 and human resources organizations. Their members 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 [email protected]. All inquiries will be answered anonymously every Thursday here on DIQ.

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