Associate skills and behaviours checklist

A lot of the time we spend with our clients involves helping them grow their practices. So, inevitably, we become closely involved in helping them recruit associate dentists. At present (who knows what will happen post-Brexit?) there are many more dentists in the UK than jobs, particularly in the South East, and so therefore an old fashioned ad in the BDJ will often elicit dozens of applicants (and sometimes hundreds), most of which will lack the necessary skills and behaviours to work in our clients’ practices.

Now, before the associate dentists reading this start accusing me of associate-bashing, I’m not. Truly, I’m not. In the last 12 months we have helped our clients find some spectacularly good associates who tick all the boxes below (and more). These sort of dentists are definitely out there! However, in the last few weeks I have heard some chilling stories about associate behaviour (which, frankly, precipitated this article). Associates like this are also out there and the purpose of this article is to help you tell the difference, if you are going to go looking!

Here’s a list of skills you might want your new associate to have:

  • Qualifications — UK BDS or equivalent, registered with the GDC and appropriate CRB checks; no criminal record
  • Great English language skills and an excellent communicator
  • Competent — needs to be able to do a wide range of general dentistry to a high standard
  • Problem solver — proven ability to competently deal with unexpected issues in both clinical and non-clinical settings
  • Familiar with computerised records (SOE Exact) and IT systems
  • Experienced — minimum five years post-qualification experience, ideally with additional post-graduate qualifications.  Should have worked in UK private general practice as well so understands the realities of working in that system
  • Experienced in planning and placing implants competently and wants to develop this further
  • Experienced in using CEREC Blue-cam
  • Has experience in facial aesthetics including Botox and dermal fillers

Secondly, there’s behaviours. This is more difficult to envisage. If you have an associate with the right skills surely their behaviour will be OK, right? Wrong!!! Beware the ‘talented saboteur’, the skilful clinician with lousy behavior, a common enough phenomenon in dental practices. If you take on one of these creatures it’s only a matter of time before your tolerance of their behaviour will wear thin and you will be looking for their replacement. An expensive and disruptive mistake…

Here are some typical behaviours that our successful clients look for in an associate:

  • Self confident, passionate about their work
  • Efficient and organized
  • Courteous and respectful to both patients and colleagues
  • Honest
  • Self-motivated
  • Enthusiastic about dentistry and the practice
  • Has completed some personal development
  • Team player — can fit in with existing team
  • Great personality — engaging and people-centred, so that people want to see this person
  • Smart and professional appearance
  • Long term prospect who wants to stay with the practice and be part of its success
  • Has a track record of grossing in excess of £1,000/day
  • Likely to stay with you for at least three years (may even be part of your succession plan and buy the practice)
  • Relatively quick and pragmatic at dentistry
  • Flexible and hard working, willing to work evenings and weekends
  • Willing to take responsibility, will come to meetings and do their share of stuff

It’s interesting how much longer the list of behaviours is than the list of skills. And therein lies the problem. There are plenty of reasonable dentists out there looking for a job in a nice, busy private practice and not many of them who can or are willing to display this set of behaviours.

And then there’s another list. A list of associate behaviours which will quickly undermine a practice and which are all too common. Associates who show any of these simply have to shape up or ship out, real quick!:

  • Complain to nurses and receptionists about: the principal, how much they get paid, how hard they have to work
  • Consistently fail to do what they say they are going to do
  • Complain about having to turn up for practice meetings and social events
  • Move the last patients and go home early
  • Spend time between patients on their phone or online
  • Gossip about patients and staff
  • Date the staff
  • Give really short notice of leave/holidays/courses
  • Consistently run late
  • Take the practice equipment and materials home and offer services like Botox and whitening to friends and family

I could go on… In truth, you will find the best match in an associate for your practice when you, your practice and your new associate share the same values. In other words, you think in similar ways and the same things in life are important to you both. If you would like some help getting the right match, contact me for a chat.


m. 07770 430576

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