We “Celebrate Dental Assistants” this month by recommending a great book, “Battling and Beating the Demons of Dental Assisting,” for all of you to give to your assistants. It is written by one of the most influential voices in Dentistry, Kevin Henry, who had been the editor of numerous dental publications and who now advocates for the empowerment of dental assistants. “Battling and Beating the Demons of Dental Assisting” is an encouraging self-help book to raise confidence and increase pride in the job your assistants do. We will be offering it to the dental assistants in the practices we coach as part of our coaching program. At a time when attracting clinical assistants is difficult, it makes good sense to celebrate and motivate these individuals, who work side by side with us, for the benefit of our patients.
Each year, around this time, we are reminded by the American Dental Association to celebrate Dental Assistants Appreciation Week during the first week of March. How insulting! If you are smart, you should be celebrating the contributions made by your clinical assistants to the success of your practices each and every day of the year.
In every successful practice that I’ve ever visited, at the core of their success is one or more assistants who have an incredible work ethic, and who are setting up rooms and turning equipment on long before the doctor arrives. They have command of sophisticated equipment and technology. They have incredible knowledge of a wide array of materials, instruments, procedures and policies, with little room for error. They perform their job within 18 inches of the person who oversees them and of the person for whom they are caring…if that’s not stressful, what is? They are expected to do all of this repetitively with speed, accuracy, a smile on their face and warmth in their heart. And they are expected to anticipate the doctors’ needs, often before the doctor even knows what they need…each and every day of the year. How do we wait until March to celebrate them?
I have been blessed to work with some incredible clinical assistants throughout my career. These assistants were the driving force of my success, and the success of my practice.
More important than the clinical aptitude of the great assistants, is the attitude of confidence that they demonstrate through their empowerment. These are the team members who are never satisfied by what they know, but who always seek additional knowledge and training. They love going to continuing education and take pride in applying what they learn. These are the team members who are not “pulled along” by their doctors, but instead, “push” their doctors to higher levels of achievement. They possess a mantra of “it’s never not my job” as they not only function at the highest level, but they make every other member of their team better.
This article would not be complete without recognizing two assistants who contributed so much to my success, and who continue to be leaders in the field of dentistry. The first is Denise, who worked chairside with me for 20 years. Though she lived the furthest from our office, she was the first one in and the last to leave, day in and day out. Her clinical skills were unmatched, and she trained every subsequent clinical team member in my office to her high standards until I left practice. She loved clinical assisting so much, that she would not aspire to becoming an administrator, yet she was among the most talented team members I have ever known in phone and verbal skills. I was proud when she went on become the manager of another practice and contributed to that practice winning “Best of Long Island”, just as she had done for our practice several years before.
The second assistant I would like to recognize is Amanda, our incredible Smile Potential Clinical Assisting Coach. Though Amanda only worked with me in my practice for a few years, her contribution to my practice was immeasurable. Her skill with digital workflow helped advance my practice to the forefront in being a pioneer in the use of clinical technology. Now that we are reunited in Smile Potential, she has revolutionized our ability to help with the training of making clinical assistants productive in the practices we coach. She has developed our “Dental Assisting Done Right” program which includes modules on clinical proficiency, scanning and digital workflow, inventory management, infection control, verbal skill prowess, and clinical organization.
It has always frustrated me when dental assistants have introduced themselves to Kelly and I as “just the assistant” in the practice. I always correct team members by insisting that they are “especially the assistant” in their practice. Dental Assistants, and the rest of the team, need to realize that they (the assistants) are as important as any other member of the team, and in many ways, they are the most important interface to our patients. In the treatment room with talented clinical assistants, such as Denise and Amanda, I was “just” the dentist.
Dental Assistants…thank you for all that you do!