By Kevin Henry, Editor
Kristy S. Borquez, CDA, RDAEF, FADAA, has worked for the same dentist in the same office for more than 27 years. To some assistants, that would be a nightmare. But Borquez insists it's a dream to work with Dr. Stephen Goldberg.
"We just seem to click. After all of these years, I usually know what he wants next before he does," Borquez explained. "We find levity makes the patients feel a little more at ease. Some patients have accused us of practicing our comedy routine on them. I work for other dentists in the office on occasion, but Dr. Goldberg is the one I work with four days a week. I always tell him that when he retires, I will have to retire as well because I do not have the desire to work for anyone else."
Borquez and Dr. Goldberg are two members of Northridge Dental Group, a group practice in Northridge, Calif. Borquez de-scribes it as "a general practice, but we do crown and bridge, endo, perio, oral surgery, and we see children.
"There are three dentists in this group practice. Each dentist works with two chairside assistants and we have a total of 12 operatories. On any given day, we have one to three hygienists working there as well. We have a periodontist who works one day a week, and three to four front-office receptionists."
Borquez literally came in on the ground floor of the practice, joining the group in July 1974, just eight months after the practice was established.
"Each dentist had his own solo practice up to that point," Borquez said. "They have three completely different personalities, but get along great."
Borquez said that there's a simple explanation behind her successful long-term relationship with Dr. Goldberg.
"It takes a lot of dedication and mutual respect to get to where we are today," Borquez said. "I may be very opinionated at times, but I always remember that, ultimately, he is the boss. Fortunately, he listens to my opinions and values them. Though we may not always agree, there always is discussion."
While Dr. Goldberg may be her biggest influence in the office, Borquez fondly remembers in-structors who have inspired her along the way.
"I was formally trained at North Valley Occupational Center's Dental Assisting Program in Mission Hills, Calif. I had two wonderful instructors, Sally Ingram and Inger Urbon. Both of these ladies instilled in me their love of dentistry, and I have never forgotten it. It made me want to be the best that I can be," Borquez beamed. "I went back to UCLA for the Registered Dental Assistant in Extended Functions (RDAEF) program (offered in California). I received my extended license in December 1993.
"I feel you can never learn too much, so I attend numerous continuing-education seminars throughout the year. But, I must say that Dr. Goldberg is an excellent instructor. His explanations of procedures to patients are so comprehensive that I have incorporated much of what I have learned from him into my teaching."
When asked what advice she would pass on to others in the dental profession, Borquez said, "Always remember that dentistry is teamwork. If we are very busy or running behind, Dr. Goldberg has no problem helping out by pouring models or walking patients to the front desk.
"He actually started to clean a room for me last week when we were very busy and shorthanded. That's teamwork!
"The key to dentistry is flexibility. Be willing to try something new. Always listen and respect the opinions of others, even if they differ from your own. What works for me and my doctor may not work for someone else. You have to find your own niche.
"My advice to other dentists is to treat their assistants with respect, work as a team, and compensate them well for what they do. Encourage them to become active in their professional organizations and to take pride in what they do. Support their attendance at continuing-education seminars. Offer bonuses or incentives for a job well done. Remember to say thank you after an especially hectic work day. Interaction between patients and the chairside assistants is extremely important.
"The staff can make or break a practice. A happy, well-respected employee can only be an asset to the practice."
Goldberg: Nine reasons why we are successful
- We hire our staff carefully. We put potential employees through extensive interviews that test their skills and demonstrate the qualities we are looking for. When we hire people, they know they are the cream of the crop.
- When new people come on board, we explain what is expected of them. They are then trained by the rest of the staff and they get immediate positive feedback as they improve and accomplish their goals. They are made to feel like accepted members of our family by the whole office. They also quickly learn that we are a team. Our staff knows that I cannot practice dentistry without them. They know that the level of patient care we provide as a team is magnitudes greater than what we could provide working individually.
- We provide benefits for our employees. They receive medical coverage, sick pay, uniform allowances, paid courses to improve their skills, paid vacations, and a profit and pension plan. Some of our long-term employees now earn more annually in their pension plans than they do working.
- The most important benefit we provide is that we treat our staff both as family and as respected professionals.
- Our staff knows that we expect their first priorities to be to their own families and their religious obligations. After that comes our office.
- We maintain a happy atmosphere, so it always is a low-pressure and fun place to work.
- Our staff knows that we are always there to advise and help them with non-office matters. They know that we care about them and their families. We encourage them to advance in their careers. We've had our RDAs become RDAEFs. We've had our dental assistants become hygienists, and we've had our hygienists become dentists.
- Our staff is expected to solve problems on their own. We don't have an office manager. If there is a problem booking hygiene patients efficiently, some front-office and back-office staff will get together with some of the hygienists and work out a solution. If something needs fixing or a patient has special needs, our staff can take care of it without asking a doctor. We trust our staff to use good judgment and they trust us not to criticize them if we would have handled it differently.
- We always listen to what our staff has to say, whether it is criticism or praise. They always can come to us with a problem or suggestion. We believe we can all learn from each other.
You probably noticed that I didn't say we pay the highest salaries. That's because we don't. There are dental offices in our area that pay more than we do. They still have very high rates of staff turnover and very high levels of employer-employee stress and tension. That is because there is more to job satisfaction than just raw salary.