My role as treatment co-ordinator
The job is still in its infancy but may become as common as that of practice manager
words: SUSIE ANDERSON SHARKEY
When I started working in dentistry almost 30 years ago, practice managers were a rare breed. A lot has happened in the intervening years and the role of practice manager has become almost common place (thankfully) in the vast majority of dental practices throughout the length and breadth of the land. The role is recognised with professional qualifications and can only benefit a practice. It has taken a long time for dentists to realise that dentistry is in fact a business, and they spent five years in dental school learning dentistry, not how to run a business. So, we have come a long way in the last 30 years to see the role of practice manager embedded in the culture of dentistry today.
After many years as a practice manager in a couple of different practices, a few months ago I stepped away from that well-worn path and decided it was time to take up a new role which is today where practice management was almost 30 years ago. The role is that of treatment co-ordinator and it’s a role which is evolving and emerging in dental practices, probably just in the last five years or so.
I feel I am where I was back in the mid 1990s when people ask what you do. They didn’t quite know what a practice manager did back in the day, and I’m finding the exact same reaction when I tell people I’m a treatment co-ordinator. “What’s that?” “Never heard of that” or “That sounds interesting” are just a few of the comments I’ve had recited back to me over recent months. And I suppose I can understand why. In the spirit of enlightenment, let me describe my new role and how it works on
a day-to-day basis.
A job description for a particular role will vary from practice to practice. In one dental practice you may have a nurse that doubles up as receptionist while in another practice you may have a dedicated nurse role and a dedicated receptionist role (as we do in Dental fx). It will depend on the needs of the practice, the type of dentistry being undertaken, and the way the practice is run. So although I will be describing my own role, this is very much the role of treatment co-ordinator at Dental fx, and although not exhaustive, it will give you some idea of the role I fulfil in the practice . Other practices may do things differently. There is no right or wrong in this. Roles will develop and evolve to the needs of the practice, and these roles can, and indeed must, change over time.
On any given day I have a few tasks ongoing in my role and as time goes on no doubt more will be added. Bearing in mind that I work in an implant referral practice, every day there are patients who will be having a surgical procedure carried out. The day after surgery I am keen to touch base with them to make sure they are comfortable, ask if they have any questions and to ensure they are following all the post-operative advice that
After surgery when post-operative advice is given, along with medication and written post-op instructions, the patient sometimes doesn’t take in all the information, and I find that they really appreciate this call as it gives them a chance to speak about the procedure and to clarify anything they are not sure of. I also take this opportunity to confirm their next appointment time and date, for which they are very grateful. And quite often the patients simply wants to have a chat – and recently, I was given very valuable advice on how to cut my hedge from one of the patients I phoned!
Another part of my role is to keep up-to-date with each patients’ treatment and ensure they have future appointments. It is so easy for a patient to slip out when reception is very busy, phones ringing, patients waiting to check-in and a patient heads for the door saying: “I’ll give you a call”. We all lead busy lives and with the best will in the world it’s easy to forget to pick up the phone and make another appointment.
As treatment co-ordinator it’s part of my job to ensure a continuity service to the patient at all times and their treatment is carried out as time efficiently as possible. When a patient has been seen for an initial consultation, it is part of my role to read through their proposed treatment plan and send two copies to them, both of which they sign, and one is returned for our own records. I frequently refer to these treatment plans throughout the patient journey.
As well as having contact with the patients, a large part of my role involves liaising with the referring dentist who has entrusted his/her patient to our care for the duration of their treatment. We never underestimate this position of trust and I am in contact every day with various of our referrers. They are kept updated with the progress of their patients at each stage of surgery so that they know at any given point in time how the treatment is progressing. This is one of the areas of the role that I find very satisfying as the dentists appreciate the fact that they know they are going to be updated and they know they can contact me for any further information they may need regarding a patient.
As in any role in dentistry (and for that matter any job), communication is key. The referring dentists need to be kept in the loop, the patients are reassured when they are contacted, and they know I am at the other end of phone to speak to them regarding their treatment, and the value of this can never be overstated.
As I said at the beginning, the role of a treatment co-ordinator, in my view, is still in its infancy. I think it will take a few years until this fairly new role comes into mainstream dentistry. Meanwhile, it will be interesting to watch the progression unfold and indeed to see the path of progression until we reach the stage where the role is as common place as that of the role of practice manager.
If you wish to contact Susie about this article or other practice management issues she can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org