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By JoAnn Cunningham, Sr. Director, Learning and Development, Pacific Dental Services®
JoAnn Cunningham, Sr. Director, Learning and Development, Pacific Dental Services®
How well your dental practice operates is largely dependent on how well your team members work together. A successful practice doesn’t merely run like a well-oiled machine. To achieve that level of success, organizations need to have a structured training program that supports the development and growth of their team members. Leading dental support organization, Pacific Dental Services (PDS®), provides robust education and training programs that are designed to help nurture and cultivate their team members’ career development. Pacific Dental Services leads the dental industry with its education and training platform, which offers a combination of blended learning that includes instructor led training, shoulder to shoulder mentorship and ongoing feedback. The feedback and guidance provided is especially important in both the clinical and office settings, as it provides opportunities for personal and professional growth. In addition, effective learning and development programs should also include week by week training objectives for team members to complete before they can move forward in the next steps of their development.
Journey of a Development Program
An example of a structured learning and development program is the education cycle and career path of a dental assistant (DA). DA careers generally begin with an externship, which is similar to a college internship with the exception that it involves field training. The next phase in the cycle is employment, which can be segmented into four sub-categories: mentorship, continuing education, career path development, and the career journey.
When dental assistants complete their externship and training programs, they will continue to receive mentorship and coaching from clinicians, seasoned DAs, and their hiring manager. An effective mentorship program also supports the recruitment for new dental assistants to find a dental practice to join, so they can provide quality oral health care for patients.
The most successful dental assistants invest their time to gain perspective from other DAs in the industry, as well as make the time to seek continuing education opportunities. During this phase of the career cycle, dental assistants should decide how they’d like to grow professionally – whether it’s focusing on general dentistry, a specialty discipline, working towards a fellowship from a DA association, or transitioning into a leadership role as a lead dental assistant.
Career Path Development
Regardless of how far along dental assistants are in their education cycle and career paths, their managers will continue to champion and work alongside them to elevate their chair side clinical skills as well as develop their professional growth.
Career Journey: The Next Steps
Finally, it is up to dental assistants to apply all the hard and soft skills they’ve learned throughout their journey to this point, and carry it forward with them into their dental practice. Once on board, the dental assistants will continue to grow professionally into their careers, thanks to the opportunities they gained during their structured education and training programs.
The Four-Step Approach:
Show, Tell, Apply, and Follow Up
Part of a structured education and training program is the four-step approach of show, tell, apply, and follow up. This simple process applies in both the clinical and office settings and is effective in ensuring your team members are on the track to success.
This first step requires team members to demonstrate any hard or soft skills, sometimes referred to as “learned skills” and “people skills,” respectively, to their instructor, clinician, or manager.
After demonstrating their hard and soft skills, ask your team members to explain why these skills are important. As their mentor, this is a good opportunity to explain the value behind their reasoning and gain their trust by sharing some career success stories, as well as any mishaps that you’ve bounced back from along the way.
In this third step, ask your team members to apply their newly acquired skills to demonstrate their aptitude. Explain how their proficiency will ultimately increase their personal value.
Providing feedback is a collaborative effort, which is why this step to follow up is so crucial in determining whether any additional training is needed for team members before they move forward in their development. Furthermore, feedback is a two-way street: instead of asking all the questions, take a different approach by having your team members lead in providing honest feedback.
In summary, the goal of an enriched education and training program is to consistently model the business environment by utilizing the organization’s tools and resources. However, it is up to each team member to invest in their own development. At Pacific Dental Services, team members are encouraged to take the initiative to do what is needed to own their development. Organizations that offer structured education and training programs see the value of investing in their team members. It is then up to the team members to take advantage of those tools and platforms and apply them in a real world setting. By providing a robust education and training program for your team members, they will be prepared to own their development, provide quality oral health care, and help you create Healthier, Happier Patients®.
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