The Power of Cross Training in the Dental Practice

The primary role of one team member might be the secondary role of another. This is where cross-training comes into play. For example, you might have an admin team member whose primary role in the practice is to manage the hygiene schedule and follow up with patients who are overdue for their recare. For the hygienist, this is their secondary role and where cross-training is important.

Your dental hygienist’s primary role is to be the educator of good oral hygiene, treat periodontal disease, and help the doctor with treatment planning. The hygienist also has a responsibility to have a full and productive schedule. When training the dental hygienist and updating the job description, we also need to document when he or she would jump into a secondary role and what comprises that task list.

If the dental hygienist has an unexpected opening in his or her schedule, where can he or she make the biggest impact in the practice? My thought would be checking in with patients who are overdue and not scheduled. How can you build a protocol and workflow that makes it easy for the hygienist to jump in without needing a lot of guidance from the admin team?

Let’s take a look at your dental assistants. Their primary role would be to orchestrate an efficient and productive workflow for the clinical team. You might already have a standard operating procedure for the ordering of supplies, OSHA training, organizing the operatory drawers, and sterilization techniques. But do you have a written list of other systems the dental assistant can help with such as lab case management, unscheduled patients, and following up with referrals? If your dental assistant has some free time on her hands, how can you put her to work on some of the administrative tasks to take the load off the busy, short staffed front desk?

It is important to have a good cross-training plan in place and add this to your regular training protocol throughout the year. During the year, you might have CPR training, OSHA training, HIPAA training, and also add administrative training. In your administrative training, you can train your entire team how to check out a patient and use the credit card machine to collect the patient co-pay. You can cross-train your clinical team on making follow up calls to unscheduled patients for hygiene and restorative.

One administrative task that is always put on the back burner is following up with patients who you have referred out for treatment to a specialist. This is a nice value-added service to check in with patients to make sure they are following through with recommended treatment and referrals. These referrals might need to be completed before you can complete your treatment plan.

In the end, having a strong training agenda throughout the year and the ability to easily delegate tasks to team members will help make sure things don’t fall through the cracks and people don’t suffer from burnout.