How do you help make your dental assistant a professional, career assistant? How do you make sure she spends that career with you? I think that any dentist who is lucky enough to have a great assistant will be interested in the answer to those questions. Like I said, I was at the Turbyfill denture course at NuCraft Dental Arts in Athens, GA the past few days. What a great experience! At one point, I was talking to a very nice young dentist and he said that his assistant was kind of jealous that she wasn't going with him to the course. Ah Ha, I thought, he has an interested dental assistant. That's the first step to having a professional career dental assistant (PCDA, from now on)...identify the interest. He then went on to say that he thought she was going to leave assisting to go to hygiene school. I asked him if he knew why and he said he thought she wanted more responsibility, respect and more earning power. I asked him if he could try to find a way to give her that as an assistant. Now, I'm not saying to throw money at her, I'm saying to find ways to give her more responsibility in the office so that she can be more productive and earn a higher salary. Most assistants really like assisting and only leave for hygiene because they percieve it to be more respected and more lucrative. We can change that and keep more assistants where we need them, in dental assisting. It's a two-way street though. Dental assistants have to be serious about making assisting a respected position. I would like to see mandatory certification to begin with. I'd like to see that certification require a two year accredited program. I'd like to see more self-policing and mentoring by experienced assistants. We have to take responsibility for bringing more respect, responsibility and value to what we do. Dentists will need to be willing to look at assisting as a profession. Most dentists who have a PCDA in their practice will tell you how valuable they are to them. They are willing to pay them according to the value they bring to the practice. Practices with PCDA's don't find as much immaturity and in-fighting among their staff, because the PCDA is doing what she enjoys and is committed to, and is appreciated by her boss and team members. Whenever I hear or read about dysfunctional practices I wonder what happened. Why would any member of the dental team be permitted to cause dysfunction? Why wouldn't a dentist protect his or her investment and livlihood by insisting on professional staff members? I think it's because there are few to be found sometimes. When I hear about dental assistants who stir up trouble and try to avoid work, I wish they would just find something else to do. They hold the rest of us back from being seen as PCDA's. That keeps more serious minded people from considering dental assisting as a profession. I think that years are spent, or wasted, dealing with nonsense and putting up with poor performance because, "that's the best I can find." Developing PCDA's can have an enormous impact on making things better. In the end, the dentist I was talking to agreed that he might be able to make his assistant see the value in staying in the profession. He is sending her to my course at the Florida National Convention in June to hear me talk about how assistants can function as Patient Care Coordinators. He's opening his mind to other ways that she can bring more production to the practice. He's probably going to bring her to the Turbyfill course the next time he goes. He probably going to be working with her for a long time to come if he does all that.