The level of success that a dental practice reaches is often defined by their staff. The most expensive equipment on the market, sharpest marketing strategy or most up-to-date training can be utterly wasted if it is wielded by lazy, demotivated or over-stressed staff.
Instead, having a popular, profitable practice that draws returning patients on a regular basis relies on having a strong team. A team consisting of organised, well-supported and motivated staff, who know what they’re doing but also believe in why they’re doing it.
Some of those team members are clearly mandatory. No practice can run without dentists, dental nurses or receptionists. One staff position that may be overlooked however is that of a practice manager.
A dental practice manager can form the linchpin in a successful surgery. They will provide the management support and direction to keep your staff focused. They will organise the business side of things and keep all the cogs of your practice turning smoothly. They can be among the most worthwhile investments you make.
In this post, we’re going to look at exactly what a dental practice manager is, and the multitude of ways they can help your practice to run more smoothly and be more successful.
What is the role of a dental practice manager?
The main role of a dental practice manager is to oversee the non-clinical and business side of the practice. Like every member of your practice team, their job is to ensure that every one of your patients receives the highest standard of care possible.
Unlike clinical staff, for a practice manager, this care is delivered by carefully coordinating an effective team. Enabling them by making sure they have the support, equipment, systems and motivation to deliver truly excellent service.
A dental practice manager’s duties and responsibilities will usually come under the following areas:
- Financial management
- Human resources and staffing
- Marketing and strategic planning
- Administration and IT management
The specific duties can be defined by the practice according to its needs. They may also be influenced by the strengths of your chosen manager, or the capabilities of the rest of your team.
Of course, one person can’t be expected to manage every aspect of a practice so certain responsibilities may be rolled out to other team members with particular skills, strengths or interests in the relevant area.
Ultimately however, the role of a dental practice manager is to manage what you (and your practice) needs them to manage.
Dental Practice Manager Roles and Responsibilities
You should not expect your practice manager to fulfil all of these roles, all the time, but here are some suggested tasks they could help with. As with all staffing, you should also look at the existing strengths of your practice manager, and weight the work in those areas.
When necessary, allow them to arrange the delegation of relevant responsibilities out to the other staff. A competent practice manager should have a close familiarity with every staff member and be best-placed to identify each individual’s strengths and skills. They can assign tasks based on this, minimising the chance of anyone being overwhelmed or resistant to the extra workload.
Daily practice management and administration
- Monitoring the condition of the premises and arranging for the completion of any work needed
- Ordering and replacing stock, equipment and stationery
- IT and systems maintenance and troubleshooting staff equipment issues
- Basic website updating, keeping information current and addressing any issues
- Putting together regular statistical practice reports
- Maintaining a current awareness of any health and safety legislation changes, CQC or DOH requirements and translating these into practice policy
- Regular risk assessments, overseeing the disposal of waste, assessing for and implementing safe working environment practice
- Being the initial point of contact for patient complaints and addressing any that fall outside of clinical boundaries
- Monitoring cash flow, banking, depositing money and verifying statements
- Creating monthly, quarterly or annual financial reports and identifying key trends
- Enforcing patient payment plans and minimising debts
- Obtaining grants, practice insurance and researching suppliers
- Organising, planning and leading regular practice meetings
- Managing rotas, and coordinating annual leave requests and sickness absence policy
- Keeping up-to-date with employment legislation and implementing necessary changes to practice policy
- Identifying staff development opportunities, coordinating professional development plans and carrying out annual appraisals or PDRs
- Recruitment process, including updating job roles and vacancy information, assessing initial applications and inducting new staff
- Motivating and incentivising staff, managing grievances and disciplinary proceedings
- Identifying areas for development and creating new marketing strategies
- Patient and client communication, media promotion and arranging advertising opportunities
- Collecting and collating patient feedback
- In-house management of social media or other digital marketing tools
- Devising and implementing sales strategies, identifying trends and aligning the work of the practice with current market needs and trends
The last area you will probably want to draw on your practice manager’s skills is in strategy planning. Their business experience as well as their intimate knowledge of the practice makes them perfectly placed for helping with tasks such as SWOT analysis, target setting and progress evaluations.
As a practice owner, you will probably wish to spearhead this kind of work yourself. This is your practice and implementing your vision may be the entire reason you took the step in to ownership in the first place. Involving your practice manager or calling on their skills should give you support and make the process far easier.
Do I Need a Dental Practice Manager?
An overly confident person may look at that list of dental practice manager’s duties and responsibilities and think they can save themselves some money by covering it themselves. Or delegating all the many tasks around the existing practice team.
This is not advisable. Dental training is a long, costly process: you shouldn’t waste those hard-earned skills by spending your time fiddling with staff rotas, monitoring cash flow or co-ordinating building maintenance. Having a separate, dedicated practice manager will ensure that these tasks get the attention they deserve, and are efficiently dealt with by someone with excellent organisation and management skills.
What to Look for in a Dental Practice Manager?
In England there is no definitive dental practice manager qualification or route into the post. Candidates will usually have one of two backgrounds, which both have their benefits.
Many will have worked themselves up from starter positions in a practice, such as dental nurses. Their familiarity with the dental industry is a real asset and they should already be aware of CQC and DOH standards, legislation and requirements.
Alternatively, candidates may have a business management background. They should have a strong grasp of management practice, how to lead a team and general administrative skills that will be easily translatable and give them a firm grounding for the dental industry.
Regardless of background, you should seek a practice manager with excellent interpersonal skills. They will need to be effective leaders, able to steer your team through any challenging situations that could arise.
A high standard of communication skills is another mandatory requirement. They will not only be motivating and managing your team, but will play a role in serving your patients and particularly handling delicate issues or complaints. A calm, clear communicator who can easily soothe distressed staff or patients will be an asset to your practice.
As a large portion of the practice manager’s work will revolve around administration and systems, you should prioritise someone with excellent IT skills.
An effective, well-trained practice manager can be the key to a successful surgery. Whether they are drawing on industry experience, or an in-depth knowledge of business management they can be an invaluable resource for practice owners to draw on. They will make a positive impact on staff morale, dedicating suitable attention to improving working conditions. They can help staff feel valued, listened to and give opportunity for growth and development. They can also take ownership of tasks that are incredibly important but may otherwise be forgotten by staff with high attention demands.
We hope our post has demonstrated the myriad of benefits that a dental practice manager can bring. Could it be time for your practice to recruit one, and witness these benefits first hand?