Thursday Troubleshooter: RDAs feeling overworked and underappreciated

This office's dental assistants are overworked and haven't had a raise in four years

Aug 29th, 2013
8 28 Troubleshooter

QUESTION: We are three RDAs with a combined 68 years of experience. Our duties in our office have increased over the last four years. We now produce all night guards and mouth guards in-office, and almost all our crown work. In addition, we do a large portion of the front desk duties. The current front desk person has poor phone and people skills and cannot do most of the basic tasks without guidance. We feel we are getting more responsibility but no financial reward for it. When the office schedule isn't full, one of us is sent home, instead of the part-time front desk person who can't do her job being sent home. The three of us end up using our vacation time to cover those days and the time the doctors take off because we can’t afford vacations. We have not had a raise in four years because we’re told they can't afford it, but they are paying out less and less to labs and such. We are getting frustrated. We love working for this practice. They are kind and understanding in other ways, but this is one area they just can't get right. Any suggestions? We have asked and are told they will think about it but nothing happens. We are feeling a little used and abused.

ANSWER FROM TERESA DUNCAN, MS, FADIA, FAADOM, speaker and writer, Odyssey Management, Inc:
If we approach this from a logical point of view, we can point to issues such as lack of job descriptions and training systems. However that doesn't help you NOW. You have brought up strong emotions such as feeling unappreciated, frustrated, and you have an undercurrent of resentment. This is not an easy situation for you and your fellow RDAs!

I would schedule one meeting with the doctor and manager to let them know you are frustrated with the current arrangement. But approach it with a positive attitude. Instead of saying "You never trained her and now we're suffering" (which is what you're thinking!) say this:

"It seems like the clinical team is pitching in more to help with administrative duties lately. Would you like us to set up a day where we handle the front office duties and you can take that time to work with ‘Mary’ and train her?"

Another tactic would be to compile a list of five to seven specific examples of how her mistakes have impacted the practice. You could approach it from the point of view that you are concerned with the success of the practice and would like to help.

One last suggestion I have is for your office to join the American Association of Dental Office Managers (www.dentalmanagers.com). There are many webinars (upcoming and archived), articles, and a user forum that would help both your manager and "Mary" refine their administrative skills. Once they realize how much "Mary's" performance is hurting the practice, I would hope they would take immediate steps to correct the issue. I wish you luck in your situation. Keep us updated here at the Thursday Troubleshooter!

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