That’s an interesting question, isn’t it? Is it one you’ve thought about? It’s natural to think that all dental practices are the same. But the reality is that not all offices are created equal. Some are small, single-doctor, and fee-for-service, while others are large, multi-doctor, HMO practices. Additionally, each dentist has his or her own philosophy, values, and style that affects the practice and how dentistry is delivered.
I remember early in my career I did temporary work and worked in many different offices. It was an eye-opening experience. I realized then how really different dental offices could be! I assumed all offices were like the first one I worked in, but was I wrong! Not only was each office physically set up differently, they each had a different personality, management style, value system, and philosophy. I quickly realized in what kind of practice I was comfortable, and in what kind of practice I couldn’t work.
What happens if you’re in an office that’s not right for you? If you’re in an office that doesn’t align with your philosophy, values, and style, you will not be comfortable or happy, and you will have internal conflict. What I see with my graduates is that if their first dental office is not a good match, they jump to the conclusion that dental assisting isn’t the right career for them. While that might indeed be the case, it’s more likely that they are in the wrong practice for them.
A few years into my career, when I was a part-time clinical assistant, I worked in two different periodontal offices. One was a single-doctor fee-for-service practice, and the other was a large, multi-doctor HMO practice. They were very different offices with very different philosophies. It became evident to me that the philosophy of large, multi-doctor HMO practices was in direct conflict with mine and I wouldn’t be able to stay there. I couldn’t be myself in the practice.
A dental assistant with whom I recently talked said she had been in her first office for about a year and she was thinking about looking for a new position. Based on what she said, it sounded like the right choice for the right reasons. However, when we talked again a couple of months later, she hadn’t taken any action. Why? She was comfortable in her current position and afraid of making a change. Fast forward ... she accepted a new position in another office and is SO happy she did. Not only is she earning more, but — more importantly — she is in an office that more closely reflects her own values and philosophy, and she is more content.
It’s not a matter of a right or wrong; it’s just a matter of putting yourself in an environment that aligns with who you are. So if any of what I’ve said resonates with you, I encourage you to face any fears that might be holding you back from making a change, and take the action necessary to put you in an office where you can truly contribute and be free to be who you are.
Claudia Pohl, CDA, RDA, FADAA, BVEd
President, American Dental Assistants Association
The people who make dental assisting a profession