Transitions Roundtable

May 20, 2014
My new associate graduated in 2013, and my plan is to offer her a partnership opportunity in a few years. However, I am concerned about her lack of experience ...

We ask two experts the same question to give you two different answers on a complex issue


"My new associate graduated in 2013, and my plan is to offer her a partnership opportunity in a few years. However, I am concerned about her lack of experience, as my practice is very clinically sophisticated. What steps do I need to take to ensure that she will be able to treat many of the patients who are attracted to my practice?"

By Preston Lovelace, JD, MS

Charles Darwin said, "Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge," and it is difficult to find a better description of the emotional state of a newly licensed dentist. Your associate has completed dental school and obtained a license to practice, so she is knowledgeable enough to lack confidence in her own abilities. New dentists are capable of performing the clinical work, but they often work slowly and take two or more years to become fully proficient at the skills they learned in school. Speed and confidence are developed through practice, so your goal should be to get her to practice what she knows while slowly introducing new procedures.

Your first step should be to determine the services you offer that lie outside the associate's comfort zone and/or training. Sit down with her and discuss her clinical experience. What procedures does she perform poorly? Where does she excel? What procedures are frightening? Is your associate timid about doing any given procedure unsupervised? Identify the weak (or nonexistent) areas in her skill set and make a plan to rectify the deficiencies. Remember that you cannot fix everything at once, so start with what your associate knows but doesn't do well before moving on. You may need to block some time out of your schedule in order to observe and coach her.

For procedures beyond the scope of the associate's training, identify which continuing education courses you wish for her to complete, and establish a timeline for completion. Consider making completion of certain courses or demonstrated proficiency with certain techniques prerequisites for buying into the partnership. In this way, you can ensure that the associate is capable of providing the full range of services before she acquires an ownership interest.

Preston Lovelace, JD, MS, of ADS Lovelace and Associates, can be contacted at (225) 927-8015 or at [email protected].


By Tom Snyder, DMD, MBA

You may want to consider creating a mentoring program that will enable your associate to develop the necessary skills and experience to become your partner and be able to effectively treat your new patients. Mentoring is not just an observation program, but also a direct hands-on process that will entail many hours of personal interaction and coaching, coupled with your associate's attendance at various educational programs. Here are some guidelines for mentoring your associate:

  1. Create a structured program. In the beginning you must see yourself as a teacher. Consider your associate's first few years as a customized residency program in private practice and clinical dentistry. Have your associate observe some of your complicated cases by sitting chairside with you and acting as your assistant. As time progresses, let her perform some of these advanced procedures with your input and feedback.
  2. Case presentations. Learning how you present your treatment plans is also critical to your associate's development. How you effectively incorporate technology and other aids will be beneficial for her to observe. Let your associate make several presentations of her own cases to you for critique. This affords you a great opportunity to offer feedback in honing her verbal and presentation skills.
  3. Schedule weekly meetings. It is imperative that you schedule weekly meetings to review any significant cases or procedures that your associate performed that week. Eventually, the meeting frequency interval can be decreased, based upon the success of your training.
  4. Offer CDE programs. We recommend that you enroll your associate in as many continuing education programs that your budget can afford and select as many clinical participation courses as feasible.
  5. Share business acumen. The business of dentistry is not taught -- it's experienced! Involve your associate in strategic thinking, goal-setting, and operational matters. Share your leadership philosophy, as well as your knowledge. The best transitions occur when you are forward thinking and work proactively. This mentoring approach is admittedly not for every practitioner. However, if you consider yourself to be an exceptionally skilled clinician and want to ensure the long-term success of your associate, the mentoring approach is well worth considering!

Tom Snyder, DMD, MBA, is the director of transition services for the Snyder Group, a division of Henry Schein Professional Practice Transitions. He can be reached at (800) 988-5674 or [email protected] .

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