In 2003 there was no dental hygiene school in the state of New South Wales [NSW].
If dentists in NSW wanted a hygienist to work in their practice, they needed to entice a hygienist to come from interstate or from overseas. There simply weren’t enough hygienists in NSW to fill the demand.
And that was really weird, considering that Sydney was the most populous city in Australia, and NSW was the most populous state.
The state where most hygienists were graduating was Western Australia [WA].
And in WA, there was an oversupply, or excess of dental hygienists.
So much so that often there were dental practices where three hygienists were employed each day.
But here’s the interesting thing….
What I found was that within those dental practices that employed three hygienists, there would be an unwritten ranking or seniority protocol for their utilisation….
Let me explain…. You’d have the senior hygienist, employed on a permanent basis. Then you’d have the “next” hygienist, maybe employed permanently, maybe employed as a part timer. And lastly, the third hygienist would be employed as a “casual”.
And here’s what would happen.
As each day unfolded, if any vacancies arose in the books of the more senior hygienists, the staff at the office would “move” patients from the schedule of the casual hygienist to fill those vacancies in the books of the more senior hygienists. And so the casual hygienist would end up with a half empty day, and so could then be sent home early when she was done.
This daily shuffling of hygiene patients saved the dental office from having to pay wages to any hygienists who were not actively busy.
To me, I found this “trafficking” of dental hygiene appointments quite cutthroat and ruthless…
What I saw here was that these dental practices were actively turning their hygiene departments into a commodity for all of their hygiene patients.
By shuffling their patients’ hygiene appointments around from one hygienist to another, these practices were actually propagating the image of the provision of dental hygiene as being purely a faceless commodity, and not being a personal customer experience.
In reality, they were also creating an internal image within their own practices that hygienists themselves were also a commodity, employed to deliver that commoditised service.
As a result of this observation…
As a result of this observation, when I arrived in Perth WA to interview hygienists for a job in my dental practice in Sydney, I was able to quickly identify frustrated rockstar hygienists being exploited, and offer them employment based on permanency, respect, and appreciation.
And isn’t that all that any employee wants?
I shudder at the thought of dental practices that do not offer all of their staff the surety of permanent employment.
For staff, having the consistency of income week in and week out takes a load off their shoulders and allows them to plan out their personal weekly expenditures for housing, food, clothing and services.
Dental practices that pay staff different amounts each week that vary depending upon the dentist’s hours of attendance at the practice are skating on thin ice when it comes to creating any version of staff loyalty.
Your best team members deserve respect, appreciation, and an assurance of permanency.
To fail to provide them with these is sheer lunacy…
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