Dianne Glasscoe Watterson, MBA
I have been a solo practitioner for 10 years, and I'm thinking I need to hire an office manager because I am tired of all of the management responsibilities. I spend several hours each week (mostly on my day off) shuffling papers, all the while wishing I could be enjoying my boat with my family. I'd like to hire someone to run my practice and let me concentrate on doing dentistry. Do you have a job description for an office manager you could share?
- Dr. Dave
Dear Dr. Dave,
Your desire to offload management responsibilities is a common lament I hear from solo practitioners. It's rare to find a dentist who actually enjoys the management aspect of owning a business-especially when it comes to paperwork.
However, I do not recommend using the title "office manager" for any staff member in a solo practice. Only when there are multiple doctors, hygienists, and a cadre of auxiliaries is there a need for an office manager. Further, I do not like the title "office manager" because it implies that the people in the office need to be managed. Your goal should be to hire high-quality people, see that they are trained well, and empower them to do their jobs . . . not to "manage" them. For business management, I prefer the title "office administrator."
A true office administrator has multiple responsibilities that include staffing (hiring, discipline, and firing), interfacing with the accountant and/or attorney, overseeing payroll and benefits administration, facilitating team meetings, dealing with equipment problems and maintenance, working with dental supply reps, and staff scheduling. Additionally, the office administrator is the person who receives patient complaints and mediates equitable resolutions. Typical pay for a true office administrator is usually in the range of what hygienists are paid. You would need to analyze how increasing your salary overhead by that amount would impact your bottom line.[Native Advertisement]
The office administrator is unique in that this individual is a staff member but also part of the practice management. This position requires a very high-quality individual, preferably with a business degree, who possesses exceptional people and organizational skills. He or she must be thoroughly proficient with the office's practice management software and must understand all the office systems, such as scheduling, recare, accounts receivable/payable, and insurance administration. Above all, this individual must be 100% trustworthy and not given to gossip, since the office administrator is privy to sensitive office information that must be kept confidential.
I do not know the current staff configuration at your business desk, but if you are like most solo dentists, you have two business assistants who share duties without having any defined job descriptions. Without job descriptions, it is impossible to hold anyone accountable for important bodies of work, such as maintaining the schedule and keeping accounts receivable healthy. One person should be the financial coordinator, and the other should be the scheduling coordinator. It may be possible that these individual roles can be expanded to include some of the administrative tasks that you would like to delegate.
I urge you to make a list of the chores you would like to offload and then decide to whom you can delegate those tasks. Today, most practices use a payroll service for payroll, and some use a separate bookkeeper for QuickBooks and accounts payable. I also recommend you seek out a CPA who has intimate knowledge of the dental industry. The Academy of Dental CPAs is an excellent place to find such a person (www.adcpa.org). Also, a practice consultant can advise you personally concerning practice management challenges and even help with staff training when needed.
All the best,
Dianne Glasscoe Watterson, MBA, is a consultant, speaker, and author. She helps good practices become better through practical on-site consulting. Please visit Dianne's website at www.wattersonspeaks.com. For consulting or speaking inquiries, contact Dianne at email@example.com or call her at (336) 472-3515.
Sure, we can give ourselves fancy names like Scheduling Coordinator, Doctor of Dental Medicine and Oral Care Specialist, but after the end of a long day, these job descriptions feel a bit more accurate.
Front office staff, whatever it was that was on your real job description, can we all agree that most days we feel like our nametag should say: Professional Fake Smiler.
Assistants, we spent a lot of time in school, and they never officially said it, but let’s be honest…we pretty much got a degree in Mind Reading.
We know what the doctor is thinking, what the patient is thinking…hell even our friends get annoyed with us knowing what they need before they do. Our real title should be Coordinator of Everyone Else’s Shit.
annndddd the best part is how much recognition we get when we do our jobs well.
Hygienists, you can take your pick here. We wear so many damn hats in the office we can and should have multiple titles from:
CEO of Calculus
to Executive of Hiding the Face you Really Want to Make at the Patient.
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And our dear DDS. What might a more honest title be?
Doctor of the Misinformed and Distraught (DMD)?
or Doctor of Ignoring Office Drama?
Or maybe…we can all just claim the title of Executive Nap Coordinator and go home for the day.