Why Your Dental Practice Needs an Employee Handbook

Starting a dental practice involves a number of considerations, not the least of which is attracting and retaining patients. More than this, though, a successful practice depends on having a capable staff of dental hygienists, assistants and administrators. Because employment issues are essential to how the practice will operate, it is important to establish a formal employee handbook.

In short, an employee handbook clarifies the responsibilities of a dental staff and what benefits they can expect from the owner. While the details of the handbook depend on the size of the practice, it should open with a description of the practice and a mission statement that clarifies the objectives of the practice: putting patient care first. From there, the employee handbook should cover the following key topics.

Work Schedules

The practice’s hours of operation, attendance, hours required each day, rest and lunch breaks, and other information should be set forth in the handbook. It is also important to clarify whether staff members eligible for paid time off such as holidays, sick days and vacation time.

Dress Code

Because the personal appearance of the staff is important, it is also necessary to establish a dress code, although many practices today provide staff members with uniforms. Nonetheless, your policy should address matters such as cleanliness, jewelry, makeup and footwear. Ultimately, a professional looking staff provides patients with a welcoming environment.

Employee Conduct

A handbook should also establish policies regarding tardiness, absenteeism, and misuse use of company equipment, the internet and social media. In particular, employees must be notified that posts about coworkers or the practice’s proprietary information is forbidden. More importantly, posting information about patients is a HIPAA violation.

HIPAA Compliance

Staff members must also be aware of practice’s obligations with respect to HIPAA, their responsibilities in this regard, and consequences for violations. It is also important to provide all new hires with training on HIPAA compliance, as well as to periodically train all staff members to ensure compliance.

 Performance Evaluations

All staff members should be given periodic evaluations of their performance to ensure they are fulfilling the duties of their job and achieving goals that have been established. Although evaluations for dental hygienists and other staff member will obviously differ, each should be provided with an objective assessment of their performance.

The Takeaway

In the end, operating a dental practice is much like running any other business, and employees must have an understanding of their rights and responsibilities. By having a formal employee handbook in place, you will support the professional development of staff members as well as the success of your practice. At the same time, a handbook should also be updated periodically to keep pace with technological advances that shape your practice as well as changes to any applicable laws. For this reason, it is essential to work with an attorney who regularly provides legal services for dental professionals.