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Dental Hygiene Ethics in California

Is it ethical to tell patients in an office that I quit where I’m now working?



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Are you asking if it’s ethical to tell patients at the office you are at now that you are leaving? Or if it’s ethical to tell patients at your new office that you quit at your old office?

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The office I recently quit from. There are patients that I socialized with, did business with outside of the office… that want to know where I’m going. There are patients that have also asked me to let them know that if I ever left they wanted me to contact them and let them know.

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Firstly, you want to be aware of the contract or conditions you were under at the previous office. Some offices have a “non-compete” clause, which prohibits you from telling patients where you are going or contacting them all together. They don’t want patients “stolen” from their office, and who can blame them. Even if patients have told you to contact them if you leave the office, I feel like this is a fine-line to actually walk. I think the best way to stay within the ethical boundaries is that if you have a relationship with the patient outside the office, in terms of them being friends or family members, then it is OK to tell them where you are going. If your only relationship with them is through the office you left, then you should not contact them.

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There is no such thing as a “non-compete” contract in the state of California for dental hygienist if you have no vested financial interest in the business. Even if I signed such a contract, in the state of California it means nothing. There is no such intent to “steal ” patients. I just needed to know what the dental hygiene ethics in the state of California say. I’m not asking for a feeling. I wanted to know a specific ethics question.

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Any dental office, no matter what state, a practice/business owner can add rules to their employee handbook that you sign. This includes a “non-compete clause” that was mentioned in previous comments. I have worked in multiple states and signed to such rules. Whether it holds up in court, that’s another question, but employers have the rights to do this. So yes, you do need to take this into consideration on whether or not you tell patients of that office that you have moved on. It doesn’t matter if your intent was not to “steal” patients, it looks like that and that is poor ethics. The California Dental Practice Act, or any other state’s Practice Act, is not going to lay out all ethical dilemmas you face. Ethical issues are based on your judgement and that’s what makes you a professional; your ability to choose right over wrong. I agree that it isn’t in the best faith to contact patients you don’t have personal relationships outside of the office to tell them you have left your last office. And further I just have to say, if you want an answer from the State Board, then maybe you should have contacted them directly or read your Practice Act. This is the first time on this site I’ve seen someone respond like you to advice someone took the time to give you.

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