The dire call for non-clinical upskilling


This article is sponsored content brought to you by Prime Practice.

non-clinical dentistry
Prime Practice founder Dr Phillip Palmer

Like it or not, dentistry is no longer JUST a clinical profession that stands alone. Instead, it’s a business of dentistry. 

Undoubtedly, dental practitioners are highly intelligent individuals, highly skilled and attentive to detail, with a keen grasp of science. However, dental practitioners are throttled into a world where their clinical skills only account for part of their success today while their lack of critical business acumen and non-clinical skills hinders their career development and growth. 

Prime Practice founder Dr Phillip Palmer and co-CEO Anita Roubicek have been working with hundreds of practices and practitioners globally—and they both agree that there is a huge lack of business education and “soft skills” in the dental profession. Phillip and Anita answer a range of questions… 


Why is there a surge of focus on non-clinical skills in the dental industry now? What influenced this?

PHILLIP: There are more demands on dentists today due to the current market. Increasing numbers of practices, corporatisation, preferred health fund providers and greater consumer demands for service are all adding to the big picture; attributing to layers of complexity to the modern-day practice. All this has led consumers today looking for higher service standards. 

What are some of the key skills that practices are looking for when hiring or developing their team—or should be looking to develop? 

non-clinical dentistry
Prime Practice co-CEO Anita Roubicek

ANITA: Unfortunately, the key skills in demand are exactly the things dental practitioners aren’t taught in dental school; leadership, business management and interpersonal skills. 

PHILLIP: It also includes aspects like HR, bookkeeping, management and marketing. As these weren’t taught or developed at university, for many dentists, it doesn’t come naturally. However, it is imperative to the business of dentistry. 

What is holding practice owners/practices back from developing their team in some of these skill sets? 

ANITA: It’s typically the lack of awareness of what skills are required to successfully run the business. Most practice owners are too busy doing dentistry to focus on them as it doesn’t seem relevant. 

PHILLIP: Dentists often have trouble hiring and retaining their team members. And they are usually concerned about training the team who may then leave. So, it’s a real catch 22. They are often held back by an undeveloped team, but they feel that it may be a waste of time, effort and money developing them; and then they complain that they can’t get good staff!

How can developing these skill sets help a practice on the long run?

PHILLIP: Instead of asking, “What if you train them and they leave?”, it’s really looking at: “What if you don’t train them and they stay?”. Training is imperative for any business. If you do invest the time, money and energy to do so, there is a better chance that your team will stay. In addition, attributing a more productive environment on the long run gives better service to your patients and further grows the practice. 

ANITA: It will also free up the dentists to do what they were actually trained to do, which is best for the practice. The team can then be charged with the responsibility of running the practice and providing quality service which is where their skills should ultimately lie. 

How can practices engage on their path to upskilling themselves? 

PHILLIP: Every practice is a reflection of the leader; all the good things about the practice are because of him, but equally, all the problems stem from him too. Grow the leader, and the whole team will grow as he gets the skills to lead and manage the practice and the business. And because training is not a major strength in the first place, it’s definitely to engage with companies that specialises in training dental staff. 

ANITA: The leader of the practice must want to make things better on the long run. By taking that first step and upskilling themselves, then investing in the team, everyone will be engaged in feeling like it is their own business. ≤

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