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Her Stress Is Your Stress

Posted Jun 13 2009 12:17am

 Receptionists, this one's for you.  One of the hardest jobs in the dental practice is the receptionist position.  Lot's of people don't realize it, but it is.  First of all, they are responsible for getting the schedule filled and keeping it that way.  Of course, they can't control the fact that patients cancel.  What are they supposed to do, threaten them?  "What do you mean you want to cancel?  I don't care if your temperatures 110, get your lazy rear out of that bed and get over here!  Don't you realize what your thoughtlessness will do to our schedule?  Do I have to send someone over there to explain it to you?"  Maybe that sounds like a fantasy, but you know you can't do it.  So you send that appointment to the garbage can and start scanning your call lists for possible replacements.  At this time of year, don't forget your college students who are home for the summer.  I try to keep them on a June and December recall.  Start looking at some of them for possibilities.  Look at your unscheduled treatment plan list as well.  Don't forget to document the contacts you make and their responses so you don't keep calling the same person.  If they've told you they want to wait, they'll get annoyed if you keep calling.
    The other really tough thing for receptionists is deciding which emergencies truly need to be seen that day and which patients can wait another day. Try getting together with the dentist and make up a decision tree.  Find out what he considers a same day emergency and make up some questions to ask patients to determine whether they need immediate attention or not.  New patients in our office are generally seen for a comprehensive exam before beginning treatment.  There are exceptions to every rule, however, and if they have a problem we will attend to that and then proceed with an appointment for the full exam.  Broken front teeth, pain and broken teeth that are sharp are all same day emergencies for us.  We set aside an hour in the morning and a half hour in the afternoon for emergencies.  They can be filled the same day with other things if no emergencies arise.

    One of the things I think receptionists have to deal with that must be exhausting is keeping everyone happy.  The patients want appointments when they want them.  The  clinical staff doesn't want a jammed schedule or one full of holes.  The dentist wants a productive schedule with a variety of procedures.  It's enough to make your head spin, but she must keep her composure and a pleasant demeanor.  There are so many other things she is responsible for that no one thinks much about.  Insurance, billing, asking for payments (never fun), answering the phone, greeting arriving patients, it never ends. 

    If you are a receptionist and you're reading this, congratulations.  You've got a tough job and if you're doing it right you keep the practice running well and productive.  If you are a dentist or team member, tell your receptionist how much you appreciate what they do.  Remember, their stress would be your stress if they weren't there.

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