Gary Nelson shares his advice and experience on how independent associates can enhance and grow their career in the new year…
Developing yourself as a clinician is necessary to build a career that is as enjoyable and profitable as possible. Sometimes we can become blinkered to how rewarding dentistry is by being in the day to day, rather than looking at the bigger picture of our own development and investing in ourselves.
Here are the nuggets gleaned from successful practitioners over the years that have helped them progress to where they are today:
Go the extra mile
I commonly hear during my training sessions with practice teams that associates sometimes need support and advice in order step out of the day-to-day expectations of their role, particularly when it comes to the non-clinical services such as offering the plan membership.
In a way this is understandable – as an associate you may feel that you are paid to do a service and that spending time on these other areas of the business is too costly from a time-management perspective when you have patients to see. However, aiming to exceed expectations at the beginning of your career will open up more opportunities and experience to support your success in the future.
Earnings are linked to learnings
Gaining a BDS is much like passing a driving test – it simply means you can practise However, much of your professional learning will take place over your practising career rather than from your degree.
I always recommend undertaking advanced courses to help you develop. My favourite mantra is, ‘boredom begins at the end of the learning curve’. You will uncover a whole new world of dentistry you may not have learned at an undergraduate level. An investment in learning will have a major impact on your earnings in the future.
Find your niche
In order for you to be rewarded and achieve big career goals, you need to find the facet of dentistry you enjoy most and focus on it.
It may be dental implants if you like surgical dentistry, it may be composite bonding if you like restorative, or it may be adult cosmetic orthodontics. Whatever you choose, identify your niche and undertake enhanced learning in your chosen area. It can prolong your career if you love what you do and do it more often.
Know your numbers
Dentistry is a business where, if you get the numbers correct, it will allow you to be the ultimate caring practitioner. Know what hourly rate you are looking to achieve to give your patients the best experience and result.
Pricing tends to become an issue in the absence of value. If a patient doesn’t see or feel the value, that is where resistance occurs.
You can convey value by clearly explaining what goes into patients’ dental care. For example, you could introduce a visual health check chart to demonstrate to patients your thoroughness and allow them to understand their health levels rather than just talking dental jargon at them.
Understand your patients
A common area for development I have heard from my practising colleagues is to be wary of assuming what the patient will want from you. Your role as a healthcare professional is to present and deliver the best healthcare solution.
Independent care is very different to working in a time-constrained dental system. On all occasions ensuring patient comfort is paramount. Take the right amount of time with every patient and in return they will tell their friends about how good their experience with you was.
Tell the truth
Look after care first and success will follow, as a wise client told me during my very early days in dentistry, and how right he was. Truth and the resulting trust earned is key to good healthcare. This is a lesson I recite often to younger dentists.
If you look at providing the best solution and communicate the reasoning clearly to patients, you will have a long and rewarding career.
Encourage patient referrals
The number one source for generating new patients over my timespan in dentistry has always been referrals from existing patients.
Consider keeping referral cards at hand so that patients can take something away to remind them. The conversation can be simple: ‘If there is someone that you think we could help, please do pass on one of my cards. We always try to make room for friends and family of our existing patients’. It really is that easy to build your patient list and develop rapport with your patient base.
Gary Nelson is an Area Sales Manager at Practice Plan who has a passion for helping dentists achieve high levels of financial and personal life success.