Your Checklist for a Successful First Week

An illustration of the first day in the office

It’s that time of year: dental students are graduating and ready to step into their first associateships. Meanwhile, we continue to see lots of practice sales and hires to serve growing practices.

No matter the reason for the new doctor coming into the practice, how can you ensure a successful start? Here are some tips for building a plan and starting off on the right foot.

Choose the right practice or person

A strong first week starts much earlier. Throughout the interview process, ask questions to make sure it’s a good fit.

If you’re an incoming doctor, ask yourself, “Do I feel comfortable in the office? Can I handle the expected pace? What do I need to learn to be successful here?” (See: How to tell if that nice practice is right for you.)

If you’re hiring or selling, take steps to ensure that the incoming doctor shares a similar philosophy of care, or approach to dentistry, so they will seamlessly fit into the practice’s existing operations. During the interview process, review a week’s sample schedule together to make everyone shares expectations. Discuss a few cases to ensure you can respect each other’s decision-making and approach. (Remember, there can be many paths to a great result — but you must be able to trust and respect their work!)

Involving your staff in the hiring process can help identify the right person. After all, your auxiliaries and office staff will be working closely with them.

Build a solid integration plan

The easiest transitions don’t happen by chance. Rather, they’re the result of careful, thoughtful preparation — just like anything else.

Work together to build an integration plan. Going through this process (outlined in our new ebook) will help you talk through any potential issues while establishing clear expectations. For example, what is considered “on time”? Is it when your first patient is scheduled, or an hour earlier so you can attend a morning huddle or prep session?

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Of course, prioritize things that ensure the incoming doctor can work with patients (and be paid) from day one. That means that credentialing and licensure should take precedence. (Check out the ADA’s Credentialing Service, powered by CAQH. This free service helps share credentials with most dental plans quickly and easily.)

However, also ensure the incoming doctor will have enough patients, staff, and necessary supplies right from the beginning. Review in-progress treatment plans to make sure care delivery is seamless.

And make sure you discuss how and when patients will be informed. (More on that below.)

Get a sneak peek

If at all possible, the incoming doctor should shadow in the office before the official start date. Have them join the morning huddle and observe during a few treatments. Help them understand the practice’s flow: who works in which operatories, where key supplies are kept, where to stash lunch or grab coffee.

The incoming doctor should spend some time chatting with the staff, too. Organize a team lunch or outing, and consider bringing in breakfast on the first day. Doing so will relieve those first-day nerves and start building relationships.

Acknowledge the practice’s new team member

Some senior doctors hire a professional photographer to come in during (or even before) a new hire’s first week. This way, they can take new individual or team photos for the website and other channels. At the very least, ask a team member to take a new photo of the practice’s doctors.

Post the news and photos on the practice’s website and/or social media channels. The senior doctor should write a letter (which can be posted on the practice’s website and/or social channels) explaining why the new person is a great fit for the practice and any positive changes, such as expanded hours or new services.

All patients who will see the incoming doctor instead of the senior doctor should be notified, ideally more than once, so they are not surprised.

Involve the community

Successful integration goes beyond the practice’s walls. The senior doctor should make introductions to specialists, referring physicians, and, of course, patients. Bring the new team member to component meetings or lunch & learns.

Within the community, look for ways to get involved with the local chamber of commerce, Elks/Rotary/Lions, schools, or other institutions.

Clear, honest communication will help smooth every type of transition. Work together as a team to help the incoming doctor — and the practice — succeed long after the first week.

Download our new ebook, Building an Integration Plan: Your Guide to Retaining Staff and Patients, to get more advice and a free sample plan.

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