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Philosophy of Dental Practice Reward based on Effort

If your office is like mine, January is the time of year we have staff reviews and these reviews include the "dreaded by all" salary reviews. A few years ago I talked with my staff about the subjects below in my humble attempt to make clear how I felt about compensation for both myself and my staff. To fully understand where I was coming from you should probably read my previous article on staff bonus plans. The bonus plan was put into effect before this open letter was given to the staff.

Open letter to Staff

I have perhaps not been clear with myself, or you, my trusted staff, about what I see as my vision for our meaning and purpose in this dental office. After we understand each others purpose and goals, then I think we can reach a mutual agreement about our deserved rewards. I will expound on my ideas and would appreciate your thoughts on these matters.

Basically, I strive to provide good and caring service to my patients. I expect myself to achieve high standards and if I perform my dental services well I believe that I should receive rewards for my efforts. I think my, and I hope our, most important goal is to do what is right for the patient and do it to the best of my/our ability.

To deliver superior services to our patients we need to develop both technical skills and communications skills. These skills must be nurtured by taking courses, reading, reflective thinking, practice, and constant reassessment. I believe that communication skills are the hardest to master and are the most easily misused.

I believe communication is made unreasonably complicated and otherwise obtuse by many teachers and gurus that prey on many dentists basic lack of self esteem by convincing them that certain "how to" secrets of examination, explanation, flattery, high powered and pressure salesmanship, etc. are all that is needed to sell, cajole, arm twist, etc. the patient to produce for us a profitable practice of dentistry . The ideas presented are that the profit alone will make the dentist happy and successful. This vision I totally disagree with and as I become more experienced I am even more convinced of the error of the belief in profit goals in and of themselves as a desirable goal of a dental practice.

I don't believe in a lot of gimmicks to SELL people on things they don't need or want but I do feel a responsibility to improve my communication skills to the point that I can allow my patients to grow in their understanding of what they dentaly need. I strive to develop their understanding to the point that they see their dental needs as something they WANT.

Bottom line, my self esteem and personal self worth are determined by what I do and what I advise. This is a vital part of an endless loop which flows to the patient and then back again to me to reinforce and reward both patient and dentist. If I am trustworthy, I in turn will be rewarded by trust. My recommendations I believe in, and therefore, my patients will believe in them. In turn, I will feel good about what I have recommended and that will reinforce my self worth to the point, I can feel free to make recommendations to the next patient.

Having said that how does this philosophy relate to you my staff people their goals and resulting rewards? First of all it means quality of care is important to this office not just quantity. This does not rule out expanding our reach to more patients as a goal as long as the reason we are doing so is not purely based on profit. Expanding our patient base should have as it's purpose the enhancement of the dental care of more people. It should not be a chore but a privilege. We should all feel good about our worth as a productive member of this team and along with this important work comes responsibility and rewards.

Responsibilities include: being caring, being open to constant change and improvement, investing time and money in education and learning new skills, Spending time just plain thinking and implementing new ideas and solutions to challenges. Changes and improvements are not LUCK but require effort and commitment.

Rewards include: feeling good about oneself and our usefulness to humanity, feeling good about growing and blossoming as we live and learn, and having confidence in deserving the monetary rewards that we achieve from our service.

How we feel about the rewards we receive can affect how we handle everything in our office. Our perception of deserved reward has a great effect on the quality of care that we deliver. If we don't value, improve, change and practice our skills we may fall into the lack of pride in our work which leads to lower quality and poor care which loops around to lack of self worth in a sickening spiral of self destruction. If we have little faith in ourselves, we become very unable to share our knowledge with others and are quick to point out others failings. This very temporarily makes us feel better by stepping on someone else to raise ourselves up above. Sometimes we downgrade the importance of what we do because we don't respect ourselves enough to allow us to feel we are able to do something important.

I have rambled on: In a nutshell what am I talking about!

My vision is for an office that cares for our patients. By caring I mean doing everything in our power to provide the best care we can at any given time and always striving to improve our skills and methods. A staff that is united in this vision and work with each other so that all team members can participate fully in the bountiful opportunities that are presented to us each and every day. ( We must take advantage of those opportunities by having confidence in our abilities to learn, change and develop commitment.) We should all be rewarded by personal fulfillment for our efforts. When we have our purpose in perspective financial reward is the natural result of these efforts. We have tried to provide a unique situation in our office to pass these financial rewards to all participants.

Yes, the financial rewards will come if the opportunities are not ignored! I have given you all the opportunity to essentially be a partner in the business, financially, Being a partner means that you receive more money when the business is up and less when the business is down. It doesn't mean you only reap from the good times and during bad times you are guaranteed prosperity. By definition if you are an owner in the business you get a return based on that ownership, etc. If you don't receive a bonus you have yourselves as much as anybody to blame. I have constantly offered continuing education to staff members to improve their skills, journals have been made available to improve your knowledge. When opportunities have presented themselves for your self improvement I have tried to be supportive. I have tried to involve your input in some of the decisions about systems problems etc. in the office many times I have been very frustrated with continual problems discussed with no solutions offered. Compensation is not a Las Vegas slot machine. You don't deposit your quarter in the hope $1000 comes out the bottom. You must instead plant the seed, nurture and water the seedling and protect it so it can grow, then later you reap the benefits of the fruit of your labor.

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