November 20, 2012
On being a great office manager
the relationship between the office manager and the doctor
In order to have an effective leader and coordinator in the office, there must be a great relationship between the doctor and the office manager. This relationship is the result of the inherent connection between the two people, and consistent maintenance. There are steps to creating a working relationship, the first of which is having respect for one another. The second is sharing a vision or mission statement for the practice so that you are always working toward a common goal. The third is communication. It’s very important to understand each other’s communication style. And, you must know each other — your strengths and weaknesses — so that you can help each other with encouraging words and constructive criticism. When my doctor praises me, I’m reminded that she appreciates me as her “right-hand woman,” and it makes me want to go above and beyond the call of duty.
Some days are really hard. I know that I’m a leader in the office, but sometimes it seems as if everyone’s burdens are falling on my shoulders. Things feel out of my control. There is negativity in the office, my team is out of sync, and the doctor doesn’t feel like she’s 100%. My sole purpose as the office manager is to keep the practice running in harmony, but sometimes there are things that are out of my reach. I remind myself that these are the challenges that I accept because I love my position, I love my office, and I love the challenge.
qualities every office manager should have
I have been an office manager for only two years. You could still say I’m still “wet behind the ears.” But I wouldn’t feel like I was fit for the position unless I had certain qualities. To be an office manager, you have to have the drive to be great. You have to have compassion, empathy, and communication skills. And you have to be able to multitask — a good office manager should be prepared to jump in and work hard. But most of all, you have to work for a doctor who is not only just as excited as you are about learning, but also recognizes your potential. Together, the sky is the limit on what you can do.
relationships with patients
It’s important to be a team player and to be constantly communicating with the doctor, but equally important, I put myself in patients’ shoes so that I can see things from their perspective. They expect me to solve problems, so I have to think on my feet and find solutions quickly. Whether the issue is that I can’t find a time in the schedule that’s convenient for them, or they don’t understand a bill, or they’re scared of visiting the dentist, I work out a solution. I don’t become offended if they act harshly when they’re in pain, and I don’t try to dance around issues, especially with insurance. I explain things in a friendly, nontechnical way, and patients appreciate that. Good days and bad days can be a result of your intention. You can find patients bothersome, or you can take negative experiences and turn them into lessons for the future. Most of all, you should be personable. My patients love it when I ask about their vacation, or when I know the time they prefer to schedule their appointments. That extra touch goes a long way. The challenges could be burdensome, but I consider myself lucky for finding this career. It is fulfilling, challenging, and rewarding.
Lori Cline is a dental office manager at Discovery Dental in Mansfield, Ohio. She attributes her success as an office manager to the direction and encouragement given to her by Discovery Dental’s dentist, Marissa Miller. Lori is a member of the American Association of Dental Office Managersand thrives on learning something new every day.