Content Dam Diq Online Articles 2016 04 Reality Check 1

Thursday Troubleshooter: Dental assistant not getting hours she was promised

April 7, 2016
This dental assistant's husband wrote in on her behalf. She was told she would get a certain number of hours, and how she's sent home more often than not for lack of patients. How should she handle this?

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: Is it common practice for dental assistants not to have a set work schedule as far as hours worked? My wife recently finished her certification and found a position, but the dentist sends her home or asks her not to come in if the office doesn’t have patients. My wife was told this would be a fulltime job, but she hasn’t worked a 35- or 40-hour week yet. They send her home anytime the schedule is light, even on days she does report to work. It is extremely frustrating trying to manage a budget for our large family not knowing how many hours she will get to work from week to week.

ANSWER FROM JUDY KAY MAUSOLF,Founder of Practice Solutions, Inc.: Most practices schedule their team members based on the regularly scheduled patient care hours. It becomes difficult when there are a lot of cancellations or there aren’t enough patients to fill the schedule. This is often the result of ineffective scheduling protocols and verbiage that leads to patients feeling a lack of value for their appointments. The office may have been premature hiring your wife for a full-time position. A part-time positon might have been more appropriate for their current needs.

I would suggest she meet with the doctor and/or manager and ask if they will commit to a set minimum number of hours per week. If the schedule is unreliable, they may not be able to do this. Then it will be time for your wife to make a decision about whether she can afford to stay or if it’s time to move on to a new position. It will be important to clarify expectations for the new office if she does choose to move.

Some good questions to ask when interviewing at a new office are:
• What is your open appointment rate percentage? (A healthy practice is between 5% and 10%.)
• Do you guarantee a minimum number of hours per week?
• Have you sent team members home when patients cancel?
• If so, how often did you do that in the last year?

ANSWER FROM LAURA HATCH, Founder of Front Office Rocks:
Every office is run differently, however, it is definitely not uncommon for a dental office to set the work schedule around the hours that the patients are scheduled. Most of the team members where I work understand that and they’re flexible to come in and leave at various hours throughout the week, depending on when patients are scheduled.

It seems that with your question, it is not an issue about your wife being flexible with her work hours, but more about the fact that she is not getting enough hours. I can definitely see how that could be frustrating and hard to manage. The question is, was she hired as a full-time employee? Each state is different, so you need to check your state laws, but typically full time means some number of hours over 35 a week on a regular basis.

If she is not regularly getting over 35 hours a week, then she is not full time. If this is the case, then she needs to determine how she wants to handle this with her doctor. I think the three options for her are:

1) Talk with her doctor or whomever hired her and find out why she is not getting enough hours. If she was hired as full time then she should be getting full-time hours.
2) Talk with her doctor about her getting a second job so she can supplement the hours she is not getting at this office. She will then need to determine how her schedule will work between two offices, and maybe suggest nailing down certain days or times she works at this office so she can be available to work for another office too.
3) Talk with her doctor or office manager about other duties that she might be able to take on to help the office, and to get her more hours. She could possibly suggest helping in the front or taking over supply ordering or equipment maintenance, which can be done when the office is not seeing patients.

No matter what, she needs to have a discussion with her doctor and come to an agreement on which scenario is going to be the best for her, your family, and the dental office.

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