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8 Ways to Avoid Human Resources Mistakes in Dental Practices

A successful dental practice is a team effort. Dentists rely on their staff members to help them manage administrative aspects of the practice as well as the dental procedures they may be certified to perform. Yet, managing a team of employees can be challenging. Busy dentists, like yourself, may find themselves falling into human resources pitfalls that they want to steer clear of. Here, we will explore the top human resource mistakes to avoid that occur in dental practices today. Once you are aware of them, you can take the proper steps to avoid them.

Maintain a Strict Performance Review Schedule

Without performance reviews, dentists will be hard pressed to justify terminations or disciplinary measures. Decide whether to review your employees on an annual or biannual basis. Stick to your schedule and provide the review in writing. Be sure to include all disciplinary actions in writing too and maintain them along with each review in your employee files. Proper records are good for both the dental practice and the staff.

Keep Excellent Records

As a busy dentist, you might find it challenging to maintain good records. While your team can help, it is also important that your team does not maintain their own personnel files. To ensure compliance, you should never allow your staff to manage their own records. It is up to you to maintain the records with documentation of all reviews, as mentioned, as well as training, certifications, etc. If you are ever involved in an audit, it is your documentation that will support your case. Be sure that all your records are dated and have the appropriate signatures in place.

Harassment and Discrimination Policies

If you do not have policies on harassment and discrimination, you should. Failing to have these policies as well as procedures for handling complaints is a liability. Harassment and discrimination claims are increasing in dental practices. To protect your practice and create a discrimination and harassment-free environment, you need to begin with the right policies and procedures for dealing with these matters should they arise. You can talk to your insurer or your attorney to learn more about generating these policies for your practice. Without them, you are wide open for a claim. If you currently do not have these policies in place, make them a priority.

Update and Review Policies Regularly

Too often, busy dental practices fail to update their policy book or review all the policies. These materials can become out of date quickly, especially in the medical field. Changes made by government officials may result in the necessity for policy updates. Moreover, if the dentist doesn’t revisit these policies, it is likely that personnel would not either. If a transgression occurs and your practice has not properly maintained its policies, the practice is liable. Be sure that you include policy updates during your monthly staff meetings to keep employees informed of any changes. As with everything else, document that you have shared your updated policies and procedures.

Pay Properly

The quickest way to get your practice in trouble with the state is to pay your employees improperly. One of the biggest HR mistakes that dental practices make is by failing to pay overtime appropriately. The status of exempt and nonexempt employees can change depending on new state rules. It is crucial to keep track of these changes so that you pay your employees as you are legally obliged to. Also, be sure that your employees are aware of their status as exempt or nonexempt employees or if their status changes.

Insist on Breaks

Your staff members are legally entitled to lunch and work breaks. However, it is not uncommon during busy days for employees to skip these breaks. This can get your practice in trouble if employees ever choose to make a complaint. They may feel uncomfortable taking a break during busy hours. That discomfort can translate to a feeling of expectation–an expectation that they should continue working rather than take the breaks they are legally entitled to. To avoid this potential liability, insist that your employees take their breaks. Work them into the schedule.

Prepare Effectively for Terminating or Laying Off Employees

When you are forced to lay off an employee or choose to terminate one, it is important to prepare for these occasions. If you do not obtain a non-disclosure or confidentiality agreement from the employee, you have little recourse if they take their complaint to social media. Do your best to resolve conflicts with these individuals or they might take their claims to a state review board, which can cause serious problems for your business even when you’re certain that you’re in the right. It’s always better to resolve conflicts before they reach the point of litigation. Again, be sure that your employee files are up to date and that you have the appropriate documentation to terminate an employee. If you fire someone without any previous documentation of problems or warnings, you could face a wrongful termination suit.

Instate Strict Cybersecurity and Internet-Use Policies

These days, dental practices are loaded with digital devices, each connected to the practice network. Cybercrimes are increasing and medical and dental practices are just as vulnerable as any business–perhaps more vulnerable because of the pressure to maintain confidential records of patients. It is crucial for dentists to make staff aware of the risks and to provide them with the procedures they need to follow to ensure safe internet usage. Too often, emails are left open. To ensure that you are following strict internet safety protocols, it is a good idea to enlist the help of professional trainers who work with hospitals or other medical clinics. 

As a dental practice, you will want to avoid these common mistakes. It takes diligence and organization to avoid them, but the most successful practices do. If you find that you’re already making some of these mistakes, the sooner you remedy the situation, the better. Again, it may be helpful to discuss some of these issues with your insurer or attorney so that you can reduce your liabilities and create more effective HR policies for your practice.

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