Staff: asset or liability?

You have learned through weekly calls from your accountant and banker that the economy is still sputtering.

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For more on this topic, go to and search using the following key words: dental staff, asset, liability, financial obligations, hygiene, stress, cash flow, principles, practice philosophy, “clock punchers,” Dr. Brian Nylaan.

You have learned through weekly calls from your accountant and banker that the economy is still sputtering. Stress builds as that bulletproof hygiene schedule now has holes you never would have imagined. The financial obligations grow while the cash flow flatlines.

What can you do?

Common sense might say compress the schedule, fill the holes, and cut a few underused hours. Do you follow accounting wisdom or do you think out of the box? Is it beneficial for your practice to cut the range of opportunities a patient might have to visit, or do you try something different?

How about resisting the temptation to cut staff “liabilities” and instead use staff “assets” to weather this economic storm?

Take the time to identify those who believe in your principles and invest in them. For example, send your hygienists to a conference, such as “RDH Under One Roof,” and watch them become the teachers to which your patients respond. Bring the staff to meetings, such as the Chicago Midwinter, and let them absorb the wisdom of successful colleagues.

Find the courage to retain those who relish their profession, believe in your practice philosophy, and have the passion to convince each one of your patients that dental care is essential to their personal welfare.

The people are the foundation for your success, and it's important that you take the time to make the right choices when you hire. Don't just fill a position because you are uncomfortable that it is vacant. Sit down and talk with every prospective employee with a life–or–death focus, not just to delegate duties to staff members.

In the past, I have made the mistake of hiring the “clock punchers,” those who care only about their compensation and not the welfare of the practice.

During these challenging times, I have finally assembled a group of dedicated women who love dentistry, believe in my work, and devote their efforts toward making the patient's experience unforgettable.

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These women are an asset and have ensured that our practice has remained afloat in these difficult times. Their character puts patients first. That's the human element that has helped us overcome a recession.

Dr. Brian Nylaan has practiced in Grand Rapids, Mich., for the last 24 years. He and his team enjoy exploring new technologies to improve the quality of care for their patients. He can be reached at

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