170549196 © Valerii Honcharuk | Dreamstime.com
Dreamstime Xxl 170549196

Practice production, prioritized: Hiring a sterilization assistant

March 20, 2023
The position of sterilization assistant requires no previous training and can greatly boost practice productivity.

As with many businesses across many industries, there is a staffing shortage in dentistry today. Practices that are not properly staffed are unlikely to make the right level of progress, and production could suffer. One way to increase production in a busy practice is to add a sterilization assistant to support the other assistants.

The beauty of this hire is that the sterilization assistant does not need to have any previous experience. While you will certainly have to train them, this training is relatively easy, and as they work with the other assistants throughout the day, they will become trained in these basic skills. 

I have spoken to many practices that are struggling to hire dental assistants and other positions. This position is critical to allowing the doctor to maintain maximum production. Doctor production should represent 75% of general practice production. If there is a shortage of dental assistants in the practice, doctor production will be negatively affected.

Staffing advice from Dr. Levin

3 objectives to building a superior team
Should you rehire a former team member?

When adding a sterilization assistant to your team, you will be able to hire from a larger pool of less experienced people. This person can learn the sterilization portion of the job quickly, which includes the basic skills needed to assist the other assistants in tray setups and room cleanup. Furthermore, many people will be thrilled to have a job in the dental profession, so your odds of hiring a motivated, positive person are much higher.

Unfortunately, the sterilization assistant’s eagerness can be quickly squashed. We sometimes see dental assistants treating the sterilization assistant like a subservient individual, which often causes dissatisfaction or even resignation from the job. We recommend that dental assistants be encouraged to go out of their way to appreciate the sterilization assistant and treat them like the important member of the team that they are.

When you cannot hire exactly what you would like to have, such as a full-time dental assistant, then you should view the sterilization assistant as your next best option. Levin Group has seen many examples where the addition of this role increases production almost instantly.

Editor's note: This article appeared in the April 2023 print edition of Dental Economics magazine. Dentists in North America are eligible for a complimentary print subscription. Sign up here.