Monday, September 26, 2016


Now---I can hear you thinking---J  “What?  None of my staff members work overtime.  I’ll just skip this blog post since it doesn’t apply to my practice.”  WAIT!!!!!!!

Two true stories from my experience may convince you otherwise:

Story #1:  A 26 year veteran dentist had employed a business desk staff member for almost his entire career.  She seemed indispensable. Their loyalty went both ways---dentist to staff member and vice versa.  Because she often ran out of office hours before running out of work to be done, she frequently took work home with her.  When I was consulting with the office, she commented to me how many hours weekly she spent doing office work at home; and she was glad to do it.  The dentist decided to leave things as they were, ignoring my advice that he owed her overtime pay. 

Take work home?  Fine with her and fine with the dentist---until a remarriage brought her new husband into the mix.  New husband insisted she must receive overtime pay currently and retroactively for all work done at home if total worktime during a week exceeded 40 hours, and it did most weeks.  The outcome?  The State Department of Labor audited the situation, agreed with new husband, and the dentist lost.  He lost in two ways: an experienced valuable staff member left, and he was out mega-bucks by the time it was sorted out and payment made.

Story #2:  A well-intentioned dentist agreed to let a full-time dental assistant who had recently incorporated a cleaning business clean the office after hours and/or on weekends.  The dentist admired the DA’s ingenuity and industriousness.  All seemed well until the dentist mentioned the arrangement to her attorney who insisted the DA must be compensated with overtime pay for all hours worked over 40 per seven day week.  This seemed unlikely to the dentist because the DA was cleaning the office during non-patient hours as the owner of an incorporated cleaning service.  Sure enough, however, after it was all settled, the dentist had to retroactively compensate her DA with overtime pay.  She retained the DA as a staff member, but had to find a new cleaning service.  Both doctor and staff member learned a hard lesson about overtime.

On May 18, 2016, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) announced an updated regulation about overtime pay for employees.  Previously only employees with salaries or equivalent hourly wages of $455 or less per week were entitled to overtime pay for all hours worked over 40 in a seven day week.

Under the new regulation, all employees, salaried or hourly, who make $913 or less per week are entitled to overtime pay.  Any employee earning yearly wages, whether salaried or paid hourly, of less than $47,476 must be paid overtime calculated at 1½ times their hourly pay rate for all hours over 40 worked per week.

Suggestion:  make certain no staff member works in any capacity for your practice more than 40 hours per week.  If you choose to let a team member exceed 40 hours’ work per week, check with an attorney well-versed in labor law about that employee’s overtime compensation.

The new rule becomes effective on December 1,2016.  For more information go to  or

Monday, September 19, 2016


For almost half my adult life I have worked around, with, and for dentists. I have found that the majority of these professionals share one trait---humanitarianism. Most dentists have an unusually deep concern for human welfare, promoted by their give-back philosophy and altruistic activities.

Heartwarming to witness, the variety of charitable care dentists give to individuals and to communities is limitless. Included in give-back activities are efforts like Give Kids a Smile Day, a nationwide program to treat kids who otherwise would not receive dental care; MOM (Missions of Mercy) in NC and similar programs in other states, dental care for the indigent who fall between the cracks of Medicaid or other programs; dental buses or vans equipped to deliver care in underserved areas, staffed by volunteer dentists and team members; organized mission trips to provide care for patients in third world countries; individual practitioners who accept some share of Medicaid patients even though Medicaid reimbursement does not cover office overhead costs in most states; and outright free care to area underprivileged and/or homeless.

Let me describe two specific ways I’ve seen give-back projects carried out.
  • A practice with which I worked had a history of quarterly charity dental projects. Each quarter a different staff member made the choice of a recipient or recipients to receive dental care. Because the dentist had a line item in the practice budget each year for charity entitled the Benevolent Fund, staff members knew a dollar amount of dentistry to be delivered each quarter and suggested recipients accordingly. The entire team participated in these charitable efforts each time dental care was delivered.
  • The second example of a “We Care” project was described in our local Greenville, NC newspaper on June 15, 2016, reprinted from a Charlotte, NC newspaper. A Charlotte oral surgeon has established a program he calls Second Chance, to give away dental implant surgery not typically covered by insurance or Medicaid. The oral surgeon who is also a physician said he created the program which he plans as an annual service to give back to his community. 200 applicants submitted completed entry forms. 50 of these were interviewed personally. Once the pool of applicants was reduced to 10, a second interview determined the winner, a female who had only 17 diseased teeth, so bad that she could not eat properly and refused to smile even though she was by nature a happy, giving person. In a seven hour surgery, the oral surgeon extracted her remaining teeth and implanted eight titanium posts. Then a pair of local prosthodontists who volunteered their services attached temporary dentures to serve until healing was completed. The ever-grateful patient is now living a different life---confident, employed, and smiling on the inside as well as the outside.

I applaud these and the many other examples of dentists “giving back” I have witnessed; too many stories to relate here. It is my honor to have worked alongside you philanthropic professionals for over 35 years. Keep up the good work and know that the care you pour out is returned by the general public as they name dentists among the top five most respected professionals in the country year after year.

Monday, September 12, 2016


The blogs posted on Practicon’s website at for the weeks of 8/22, 8/29, and 9/5 explored the fine art of interviewing prospective new team members.  Help yourself to a set of informative interview questions for use in your office by clicking on those archived blogs.

Once hired, the next steps to the successful development of a skilled, productive team member are (1) proper orientation to your office and (2) thorough training, in that order.  Human resource experts report that over 50% of failed hiring decisions can be attributed to the failure of the employer to provide orientation focusing on the ambiance and overall functioning of the office followed by specific detailed training for the responsibilities the new person will carry.
Orientation is a term encompassing everything from completion and filing of all application and interview forms, tax forms, OSHA-required medical and training records to a review of the job description; from a tour of the office itself, either a stand-alone office or a multi-suite facility, to reading the office manual and asking pursuant questions; from learning about the history of the practice to understanding the Mission Statement (what you are about as a team); from a description of the ambiance of the practice to a roster of current staff names and positions; from an explanation of the staff meeting schedule to assignment of a staff mentor to facilitate training, answer questions, and encourage initiative for the first two or three months of employment.  Orientation sessions also cover work safety, aspects of security, the utmost importance of confidentiality about such things as personal salary, patient data, practice financial data (production, collections, etc.).  Additionally, emergency protocols in case of a crisis with a patient or with a staff member, fire, or weather alert, and beginning and end of day procedures should be included.  Other aspects of the job to be discussed as part of orientation include promptness, dependability, appearance and personal hygiene (no perfume, long hair pinned up or back, no excessive jewelry and so on), and professionalism (no gossiping in the office, no discussion of personal issues or problems over a patient in the chair and such).
On-the-job training for a novice should take a minimum of six weeks.  Suggestion: ask an experienced clinical team member and a knowledgeable business team member to write outlines/schedules, listed by the week, of procedures and processes which must be learned.  For clinical staff, the weekly schedule will include everything from seating a patient through treatment to dismissal.  Tooth anatomy, dental terminology, instrument names and uses, charting, treatment data entry, tray set ups, 4-handed dentistry at the  chair, sterilization, unit breakdown and cleaning between patients, supply storage and unit restocking---in short, all clinical tasks are to be included.  Periodic conversations with her/his training mentor will mark any areas that need additional training.
Training for a certified dental assistant will, obviously, be briefer.  She/he will have to learn the dentist’s preferred way of doing things: treatment sequencing, instrument passing, data entry, proper communication with patients and so on.  Beginning and end of day routines, lab procedures, dental supply receipt and storage, etc. should also be included.  As with a novice assistant, an experienced senior assistant may write a training schedule for a previously-trained new team member to follow with periodic checks to make certain she/he is learning the specifics of your office procedures and routines.
Following orientation, new business team members will focus on procedures at the desk.  Telephone communications leads the list---phone greetings and conversations can result in an appointment made or an appointment lost.  Similar to clinical staff training, a training outline/schedule written by an experienced, competent business team member will keep training on track, act as a checklist of information and processes to be mastered, and give the new team member a sense of accomplishment as training progresses.

I cannot over emphasize the importance of written training outlines/schedules for both the clinical and business areas.  In addition to these specific training plans, a mentor in the area in which a new staff member works is invaluable to hasten and enrich the training period.  Extra time and effort put into developing organized orientation and training programs will pay big dividends in the form of a well trained, long-term, enthusiastic team that provides exquisite service to your patients and makes your professional life so much easier, more enjoyable, and more profitable.  

Monday, September 5, 2016


In the previous blog posts we talked about effective interviewing, how to make what is sometimes on onerous task easier and more productive.  To summarize, let’s examine 10 desirable qualities consistently found in super star auxiliaries, qualities that professional interviewers look for in applicants for any job:

            Ability to deal with others
            Communication skills
            Common sense
            Cognitive ability
            Organizational skills
            Work ethic
            Technical skills

Henry Ford of Ford Motor Company fame said repeatedly, “I will pay more for the ability to deal with others than for any other ability under the sun.”  No matter how talented and skilled the team member, if she/he cannot get along with others, the office, the team, and ultimately, your patients will suffer.   

Remember, communication skills include the willingness and ability to LISTEN as well as to SPEAK.  Listening includes comprehension.

Initiative marks a self-starter, one with the intelligence, creativeness, and energy to get on with the task at hand without being told every move to make. 

Common sense is perhaps the most difficult quality to assess when interviewing, but practicality in the applicant can be judged by asking certain questions which were mentioned in last week’s posting. 

Cognitive ability is the ability to learn new material and tasks or problem solve based on previous experience. (Wonderlic Company, Northfield, IL, offers a test for determining cognitive ability.  For information, go to 

Organizational skills and work ethic can be ascertained by asking the right questions when interviewing---again, look for specific questions in last week’s blog. 
Perseverance is a vitally important characteristic---questions to assess “sticktoittiveness” were outlined in last week’s posting as were questions to evaluate adaptability (willingness to change or adapt to new methods, equipment, materials, computer system, etc.) and technical skills.

Look at the big picture of interviewing.  Effective interviewing is a learned skill, one that is a meaningful, vitally important aspect of the management of your practice.  Skillful interviewing will bring you a staff second to none, a team that affects every aspect of your office, hopefully for good.      



Monday, August 29, 2016


The hiring process begins when your office places advertisements online or in print media or issues word-of-mouth hiring notices.  As resumes are received, an experienced staff member or the dentist should read and divide the resumes into three categories:  (1) Invite applicant to office to complete an application and to interview; (2) Hold for possible office interview; (3) Reject.

Note:  Employment applications are critically important documents which, once completed by an applicant, must be retained for at least one year whether or not the person is hired.  Failure to retain an application and notes from the interview could be construed as disposal of evidence that some type of discrimination affected the decision not to hire a particular individual.  The burden of proof of non-discrimination lies with the employer should discrimination be charged by the failed applicant.  Additionally, there are a number of questions which may NOT be asked during the interview, such as age, race, marital status, sexual orientation, religious affiliations, etc.  Suggestion: have your job application form reviewed by an attorney well versed in labor law.

The initial interview can be done by the dentist, the practice administrator, or a senior staff member.  Chat a few moments to put the applicant at ease.  As the formal interview begins, a statement such as, “I’m going to be making notes as we talk so I can remember our discussion and your strengths.” will explain your following scripted questions and writing notes during the interview.  Choose several questions from each section in the list below, noting the characteristics in the title of each section.  Answers to the questions should provide significant insight on each set of attributes.  The interviewer should talk less than 25% of the time.  Let pauses happen.  They too can be indicative of the applicant’s poise, quick thinking, and finesse.