One thing I’ve learned first-hand throughout my years in the industry is that dentists love to teach. It’s a wonderful experience having a student chairside, showing them the ropes and contributing to their foundation for a successful career in dentistry. I have fond memories of my time as a student. My previous employers fed my passion for a career with endless possibilities! I’m grateful to each of them.
Over the years, we have heard many an extern story—the good the bad and the ugly—from both dental office employers and externs themselves. If your dental office participates in a local extern program, do you have a plan in place? The dental office is a business. Expectations daily are fluid teamwork and meeting production goals, but without a plan, often the bottom line feels the impact of this disruption to business. If the office does not have a written plan of action to accommodate the extern, the team will wobble like a bicycle wheel with several spokes bent: the team wobbles, stress rises, what needs to be done is undone. If this occurs, the extern feels deflated, like air hissing out of the bicycle tire making the experience a negative one with deflated confidence—a confidence they dug down deep for prior to walking through the dental office door.
Go back to day one. Remember how you felt when you set foot in a dental office to learn for the first time? Externs often share with us that they felt taken advantage of stating, “they are using me for free labor” and “I went in the dental office willing to learn and nobody was willing to teach me.” Not all experiences are like this, however, and many externs have a positive interaction with dental practices. But let’s face it, sometimes it’s ugly. Building bridges is one of the keys to success. If you take externs into your dental practice, make the experience a positive one for you, your team and the extern. Remember you are sowing seeds for the future. Externs with a positive experience will make referrals to your practice. They will remember you when you call them up to interview for your job opening. Externships and Internships are a way for students to learn real-life skills while still in high school and college.
Dental offices that welcome externs and interns from local high schools and colleges have a written agreement and guidelines from the school. That’s all good, but as a business owner, don’t stop there. Become familiar with the guidelines, consult with an employment law attorney and have an extern and/or intern plan in place for your office.
If your practice has an intern program, take a look at the link below to make sure your program allows for the maximum benefits to both your intern and your practice.