The Confusion That Exists Around The Role Of The Associate Dentist In A Dental Practice

What roles should an associate dentist have in a dental practice?

What CONTROL should an associate dentist have in a dental practice?

There really is a sliding scale or lever of degree of control that an associate dentist can ask for, or demand, or beg for or expect…

But what level of control or contribution is reasonable?

Is any level of control reasonable?

On the one hand…

A new graduate associate dentist can present to a dental practice with poor clinical skills, poor time management skills, poor communication skills, and poor HR skills.

What sort of expectations would a candidate with this sort of CV be able to command in the marketplace?

At best they may have an opinion… and often that opinion is based on feelings and emotions rather than real life lessons and data.

On the other hand…

An experienced dentist with years of post-graduate experience working previously in productive offices can command a great deal of respect because they have “runs on the board” from working in proven practices that are productive and profitable and popular and well-respected.

These sorts of associates add immediate value to the dental practices that choose to engage their services.

The model of mentoring…

The model of a dental practice taking on a new graduate and “mentoring” that graduate dentist with the skills that they should have been taught at university is a flawed model.

And it’s flawed because despite the countless hours of free tutoring and mentoring that the graduate dentist receives at the practice that “engages” them, there is often no legal obligation for that mentored graduate to stick around in their practice and repay the owner for his time, and his patience, and his wisdom…

A lot of the fault…

A lot of the fault of the lack of clarity  that is associated with engaging an additional dentist at a practice, has come from the old chestnut raised and used for a long time that the graduate dentist can in fact be a sub-contractor of sorts, running their own dental business from within the established dental practice….

When in fact the graduate dentist has NO WRITTEN DENTAL PLAN seems to have been comfortably brushed to the side by the dental practice that is concocting an arrangement of engagement that still quacks like a duck, walks like a duck, and looks like a duck…

This is because the graduate dentist is often actually only exchanging time for money and nothing else with the established practice.

In reality

In reality, the owner of the dental practice does have the right to expect that everybody who wears the establishment’s logo, and who works under its banner, should be obligated to live by its culture and uphold its principles and its values, to each and every patient that they see, and encounter and interact with.

Because the owner of the dental practice has 100% of their skin in the game of dental practice ownership… at that location…

And that 100% of ownership certainly buys that practice owner some power of authority [and decision] at that dental practice… especially when compared to the “opinions” of those people who have zero skin in the game…

Some ideas do have merit…

Some ideas and concepts do have merit.

And some have no merit.

But all decisions and plans for a business are best made based on facts and data, rather than on emotions and feelings.

Because the data will tell the story and will also sell the story.

While feelings will only give you endorphins, at best…

Sometimes youthful exuberance can be an advantage, and other times it can be a crutch of inadequacy.

There’s a reason for this idiom that originated in the 1500s:

“You can’t put an old head on young shoulders.”

I find it difficult understanding how someone fresh out of dental school can be running a business with no equipment of their own, and no patients of their own, and most times no business plan?

Aren’t most associate dentists only exchanging their labour for money, and not much else?


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