Professionalism and Work Ethic: Have Times Changed?

May 15, 2013 | Dental |

Has the work ethic changed so much over the years? Am I imagining that employees’ work ethics have changed to the point that some just do not care about meeting their employers’ expectations. I do know there are some wonderful committed employees who have employers that are focused and committed to hiring, training and setting company policies and protocols for them to follow.

With positive ethical and professional values, your dental office will rise above the offices you are competing with in the dental market. Professionalism starts with the conduct and quality of work of both the employer and employee and allows everyone in the office to respect patients and staff alike. Professionalism builds self esteem.  For employees and employers, honesty and commitment to duties both delegated and performed increases the success of the business. In the end, everyone benefits for having a productive professional work ethic and attitude.


Why do these things happen?

There are offices where the business team go home at the end of the day when there is unfilled time in both the doctor’s and hygienists’ schedule? The schedule is totally related to the production and profitability of the practice. Some employees (whose job security is based on the viability of the schedule) miss this point.

Stress is reduced and profitability is increased by being pro-active with the schedule and planning ahead for a well scheduled week. In addition, tracking unscheduled treatments and having a system to call and follow up with patients is both professional and profitable.

Often a dental practice has a high accounts receivable and the office team does not seem to worry about it. This is a crucial mistake by staff. Where can anyone go and not pay for services rendered? Consider if owners of restaurants, hotels, grocery stores etc. did this – how long would they be able to pay their staff?

It is important for the business team to collect what is produced in the practice to eliminate financial stress. Calling in overdue accounts is a thankless job. It is easier to give patients an estimate of treatment required and explain payment is expected at each appointment unless there is a commitment to pay with an accepted credit card that is on file for the larger treatment plans.

Doctors have often asked me “Why does my dental hygienist refuse to take patients’ photos when asked to and then tell me the photos will be taken next time they come in”. I suggest the dentist politely let the hygienist know that he/she needs the photos for a treatment plan for the patient, along with the x-rays, and he/she will be back in a few minutes when the photos have been taken.

Dentists have also commented that when they have a patient in the chair the assistant is up and down constantly for material or instruments that should be right there during the treatment, this can be very time consuming and frustrating for the dentist.

Another common concern is that inventory is unorganized and no one seems to be responsible for the unorganized lab in the office, the lack of a system for lab cases coming in and going out on time.

Finally, some employees must learn to take pride in the appearance of the practice by reducing the clutter, organizing the magazines in the greeting area, making sure the business desk is functional and professional.

How do we fix the above concerns? Leadership is imperative to encourage a good work ethics and professionalism.



Leadership is essential for the success of any business, you may not win a popularity contest but employees’ need guidelines and share in the philosophy of the practice.


What can be done?

Professionalism is the way we talk, the way we dress, the way we act and interact with others, arriving on time for work and meetings, controlling emotions when things are not going well and being fair and consistent. Leadership can set the stage for professionalism within the office. Leadership is a skill to be learned like dentistry itself. Here are some factors.

• Hire team members that are caring and truly people oriented

• Train your team members so they can meet your expectations

• Communicate at morning meetings and monthly team meetings

• Schedule annual team evaluations

• Update and review office policies on an annual basis

• Set realistic practice goals with the team and have a vision of how you see your ideal practice

• Make customer service should be a priority for the entire team

• Each team member will benefit from a detailed job description in order of priority

To conclude, there are many things that could be done to get back on track if you feel your practice needs to be fine-tuned. A priority list of changes in an organized manner, with regular meetings is the best way to start. If there are people on your team that are not professional or have a poor work ethic, you need to communicate your concerns and see if they are willing to make changes. A professional caring team with an excellent work ethic is worth its weight in gold, why put up with anything less!


Bottom Line: This article suggests what can be done to improve the professionalism and work ethic in a dental practice.


Anita Jupp’s career in dentistry spans 30 years. She is respected internationally as a practice management expert having lectured in the UK, USA, Asia and Europe including the BDA, ADA, AGD and FDI. She has written four books and has developed a series of training tools on CD. Recently, Anita has helped dentists transition the difficulties of a practice sale or retirement planning and can be reached at 905-339-7843 or