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Thursday Troubleshooter: Does dental assistant need to shift focus to bring more joy to her day?

April 19, 2018
This expanded functions dental assistant is frustrated with the front office staff, but maybe there's more she can do to help get things done around the office.
Nearly everyone has problems and concerns on the job, and sometimes you're just too close to a situation to solve something yourself. Share your concerns with Team Troubleshooter, and the experts will examine the issues and provide guidance. Send questions to [email protected].


QUESTION: I’m just curious about your opinion on something. I'm struggling as an expanded functions dental assistant. I work for a corporate dentistry office, and our doctor and office manager allow the front office girls to search social media and shop online during work hours. Sometimes we don’t get insurance verifications and paperwork scanned in properly in order to care for our patients. I think it’s because of their inattention to their responsibilities.

ANSWER FROM GINNY HEGARTY, HR, dental consultant, and management strategist:
I really appreciate how brave you’re being by posting this question. As I read it, I’m not totally clear on where you are struggling. In my experience, a struggle or frustration is a sign that someone needs to get greater clarity on a situation. Is this about the leadership in the practice? Is it about the online shopping and social media use? Or is it that sometimes insurance verification and paperwork does not get done? I suggest that you start by asking yourself three questions:

1. What do you know for sure?

Be careful here to separate your opinions and assumptions from the facts. Identify where your focus is. You say “sometimes” you’re not getting insurance verification and paperwork scanned. How often does this happen? Is it an occasional bump in the road or a regular occurrence? Just the facts here.

2. What can you do to help?

How can you lead with your best intentions? How can you identify the missing patient information before it interferes with patient care? How can you have your coworkers’ backs so patient care is at its best? What’s your next best step when this happens so you can help create a great outcome?

3. How can you prevent this in the future?

If your goal is to have insurance verification and paperwork scanned to properly care for your patients, what steps can you take to proactively support this happening? Can you review your charts a day ahead? Can you talk with the front office team and let them know when something is missing prior to the patient being seated?

If your struggle is with the online shopping and social media use, I would say that you’re focusing on things out of your control. Remember, judgement is expensive, it steals your focus and your joy. You can instead choose to focus on providing great patient care and be the change you want to see.

It would be ideal if the practice leadership was taking steps to build a great culture of accountability. However, the reality is that you can’t control other people’s behavior. You can always control your response and your next best step forward.

As an EFDA you’re able to do great work, make a meaningful difference to your patients and your practice, and build a rewarding career. Lead with your best intentions, they will serve you well. I also believe that’s exactly where you’ll find your greatest opportunity and joy.

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Don't be shy! If YOU have a tough issue in your dental office that you would like addressed, send it to [email protected] for the experts to answer. Remember, you'll be helping others who share the same issue. Responses will come from various dental consultants, as well as other experts in the areas of human resources, coding, front office management, and more. These folks will assist dental professionals with their problems on DentistryIQ because they're very familiar with the tough challenges day-to-day practice can bring. All inquiries will be answered anonymously each Thursday here on DIQ.

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About the Author

Team Troubleshooter

This weekly column on DentistryIQ features questions from everyday people who work in dental practices, who have issues they would like addressed by the experts. Those who regularly take the time to answer questions include Rebecca Boartfield, Patti DiGangi, Dr. Chris Salierno, Laura Hatch, Karen Daw, Jill Townsend, Lisa Marie Spradley, Shelley Renee, Judy Kay Mausolf, Robin Morrison, Paul Edwards ... and the list is growing.

Send your question or issue for an expert to address to [email protected].. You'll be glad you did.