The job “dental hygienist” has ranked in the top half of best 100 jobs on US News for several years running. And yet, dental practices are finding hiring a hygienist more and more difficult. According to the ADA, as of last month, more than 80% of dentist owners who are trying to hire are finding recruiting extremely or very challenging, particularly for dental hygienists and dental assistants. Many private dentists are understandably disheartened with the hiring process, finding it challenging to get qualified applicants, experiencing interview no-shows, poor attendance in recent hires, or having new hires quitting.
The shortage of dental hygienists and assistants pre-dated the pandemic, so the staffing shortage only became worse as the pandemic posed new challenges. Many employees left the dental workforce for various reasons, including concerns about workplace safety, the desire for more work-life balance, or taking early retirement.
With the looming possibility of a third wave of the pandemic, here are five things your practice can do to ride out the hiring crisis.
Know Your Team
Over 95% of dental hygienists and 85% of dental assistants are female. Think about that. A 20 to 1 ratio of dental hygienists are women. And yet, on average, female dental assistants still only earn 97% of what male dental assistants earn. Addressing this and other pressing issues for female dental staff is a way you can make your dental practice more attractive when recruiting. In addition, many of these female hygienists and assistants are mothers. The mental toll that the pandemic has taken on mothers is well documented. With the extreme shortage of dental hygienists, assistants, and administrative staff, it’s essential to make your practice attractive to new talent, and it’s equally important to retain existing talent.
Here are some things independent dentists can do to retain and recruit dental hygienists and assistants.
Offer Flexible Schedules
Having a good working relationship with your staff members means keeping the lines of communication open. Have honest conversations with your team members to find what work schedule works best for them. And then, to the extent possible, determine what scheduling changes can make everyone’s lives easier. Perhaps it makes more sense to schedule the most complex procedures in the morning and easier, routine procedures in the afternoon so your team can leave the office feeling energized, not stressed. Would a compressed schedule with one day off be beneficial to your staff members? Finding ways to make work less stressful and more balanced helps improve job satisfaction, employee retention, and productivity.
Offer Referral Bonuses
Because dentistry can be a small world, you never know what contacts your staff might have. Consider offering a referral bonus to your team members if they refer a candidate that you hire. Leveraging your own team member’s network is also a great way to “pre-screen” candidates during the interview process. Once they’re hired, you have a built-in rapport with your team member, which helps the new hire integrate faster into your practice.
Post Job Openings on Your Website and Social Media
If you’re hiring, let the world know! Make sure you have the careers section on your website up to date and announce new job postings on your social media channels as well. Although less commonly used by dental practices to engage with patient audiences, LinkedIn may be an excellent social media channel to find qualified candidates.
Retaining Existing Team Members
Investing in the professional development of your team members is time well-spent. For every team member that you lose, it costs you productivity, team morale, and revenue. Schedule weekly check-ins with your team to discuss professional development, address any of their concerns, celebrate wins, and work with them to help them become better dental hygienists or assistants. If interested, you can offer mentorship to help them take on more responsibilities for the practice or help them utilize dental software better.
To build a strong team, hold daily morning huddle meetings and set aside time once a week or month to discuss larger goals and strategies. With exit interviews, it’s already too late to retain an employee. Consider holding “stay interviews” to continually give employees a reason to stay with your practice and proactively resolve any issues that might otherwise go unnoticed.
Using Technology to Help Bridge Gaps
Let’s say you’re doing everything you can to retain and attract talent, but you’re still shorthanded. This is unfortunately a reality for many practices as the hiring crisis is likely to continue for the foreseeable future. Instead of overwhelming your staff with more responsibilities and increasing stress for you and your team, consider implementing technology that reduces the workload for your smaller staff.
The right practice management solution can help automate tasks for your front desk and back office. It can streamline the day for you and your dental hygienist and assistant as well. Ask yourself:
- How much stress could you reduce for you and your billing team if your practice management solution could match up to 90% of your 835 claims?
- How much easier would it be for you and your front desk team if your practice management solution automatically sent text reminders for upcoming appointments and recall reminders?
- How can a practice management solution help me fill canceled appointments?
- What if your practice management solution ensured that all patients had every form completed before their appointment?
- What if your practice management solution offered intuitive user flows for your clinical team?
- And how much easier would it be if you had cloud-based anytime anywhere accessto your practice data?
Finding ways that technology can bridge gaps is a cost-effective and scalable way for your practice to ride out the hiring crisis.
Bridging Gaps with Denticon
Our cloud-based practice management solution, Denticon, can automate many tasks for your practice to reduce stress for you and your team while allowing you to accomplish more each day. As an added benefit, patients experience better clinical care and streamlined scheduling, payments, and communications processes.
To learn more about how Denticon can help your practice during this hiring crisis, contact us today.