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Should I be the only one responsible for scheduling my patients?

I have been working as an RDH only a few months and seem to have a hard time filling in my schedule. This is only an issue at one of the offices I work at. At the other two I am the only Hygienist working there so it’s easy to have a full day of patients. However,at the office that’s slow there are 2 other hygienist working there and have been there for several years. One of the Hygienist works 4 days out of the week (I only work Mondays) yet she still has a full schedule every day.Sometimes I will only have one patient that day, sometimes 3, if I’m lucky 5. I have made calls several times from a broken appointments list and unscheduled appointments list but was unsuccessful. When I ask the front desk if they call up recall patients they said no. I can tell they have no system in place. Currently they are having issues handling finances and the office is in great debt. I know this causes a lot of stress on the Dentist. I feel bad because I feel like he hired me to help bring in more patients but I don’t know what else I could do besides call patients when I can. The office can’t afford postcards or any other advertisements to help bring in new patients. I am also contemplating leaving this office because I overheard the Dentist (like in the next operatory, to the other two dental assistants) talking about how Hygienist should bring in their own patients since it’s just like we are renting the space. I know he was talking about me because I am the only Hygienist that does not have full schedules. When I asked if the other hygienist call up recall patients I was told No not at all. Am I in the wrong?

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2 Answers

I don’t feel like you are in the wrong. It sounds to me like the dentist is implying you are an “independent contractor” which hygienists are not. It’s the dentist’s office and the dentist’s patients. Hygienists are employees and not “renting a space” in the office.
Secondly, the dentist is paying an employee or employees (front desk) to do certain duties in which they are not doing. Allowing this falls directly on the dentist, not you. It’s one thing to help out if you have a free moment, if you are being paid for your time, like you have been doing. However, to do the front desk’s job on top of treating patients seems counter-intuitive as far as good business practices go. Helping out when you can is about all you can do.
It’s not your fault the doctor is in debt, nor is it your fault that the doctor doesn’t have the money to market the practice. Employing 2 hygienists who have full schedules, which out of hygiene exams about 80% of the doctor’s treatment should be coming from, it doesn’t sound like this office should be so badly off money-wise. Again, this does not fall on you, it falls on the dentist.
Another thing to mention is that the doctor just might not have the patient base to have a third hygienist. This is not your fault either.
To me, it sounds like the dentist is using you as the scapegoat as to why the practice isn’t doing as well as it should. I certainly wouldn’t want to work for a dentist who did that to me! Go with your gut here, if you feel like you should leave the office, then you probably should. I wish you the best of luck!

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I was in a similar situation with not having a full schedule at an office I was working in. The strange thing about it though was that I was the only hygienist in the office. The doctor had done the cleanings before I came along so there was basically no hygiene protocol in place. That office was horrible for many reasons, and I figured out after working there that the dentist rarely had return patients. Once I found this out, I began looking for another job and am now out of that office (thankfully).

To your question, I don’t think it should solely be on the hygienist to be in charge of their schedule. They hired you in and should have had the patient base to justify bring you on. If they don’t have enough patients to have a 3rd hygienist, why did they hire one? Where they looking for a hygienist or did you go in asking if they needed anyone and they said yes? Either way, the front office should help out with scheduling you patients because you don’t have a lot of extra time if you do have a fairly full schedule to call people. If the office is in bad debt, they should have not brought another person on to potentially put them in worse debt (and that isn’t your fault). This office sounds like they aren’t very organized and they are only putting themselves in a worse position with hiring more people and not having the patients to keep everyone busy. If I were in this situation, I would stop working at this office. You are only working one day a week and it sounds like you are busy at your other offices so could the other offices you work at add another day or extra hours for you? That’s a tough situation and I hope you get everything figured out!

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