What we told this dental assistant about drama in the practice

So often, I get emails from dental assistants with questions about their career paths. I’ve spoken to dental assistants around the world for the last 15 years, and so many stories have been told to me by these amazing team members through the years. 

I recently received a question from a young dental assistant about her current situation and the future she hoped to have. I asked her if I could share this with you, as well as the answers provided by both Dr. David Rice and me, because I believe there are many dental assistants (and dental practices) out there where an environment like this is a problem that should be addressed by the entire team, with the dentist as the leader.

Note: Upon her request, some of the information that could identify this dental assistant has been changed to protect her identity.

Q: I have been a dental assistant for about two years and I absolutely love the job! But the office I’m at has a lot of toxic people who like to feed off drama. I’m usually a very positive, happy person … but lately it’s been hard to even go to work. I do have one other dental assistant who I work with and she understands how I feel, so I am thankful for that.

The office I’m in right now is made up of people who have worked together for a long time, so there is a generational gap I am fighting as well. Most of them in the practice are Baby Boomers and I’m a part of Generation Z. They always talk about politics or religion because they think everyone has the same views, but I have very different views and this makes things very awkward. I feel like an outcast in this office and it’s draining me.

What are some ways or tips to keep positive or to try not get myself involved in drama? 

Just so you know, I do have a plan of where I want to be in the next year or two. I plan on moving from Utah to the Florida panhandle. I have relatives there and it seems like a good place to “start over.” I’ve kept this to myself, and probably won’t share it until it’s closer to time to move.

Kevin Henry
A: The Florida panhandle is a beautiful part of the world. Sitting here and watching the snow come down in northern Colorado, it sounds really nice right now. I think having a plan and being ready to act on it sounds like a good move for you, mentally and physically.

Until then, the best thing I can suggest is focus on that future and building yourself up to be the best dental assistant you can be through courses, learning, etc. If you focus more on improving yourself than worrying about trying to improve that practice, it will keep the work feeling like an important part of what you’re doing every day. Rather than getting better to benefit a toxic practice (and one that you know isn’t a part of your future), you’re getting better to improve you and the practice where you will be working down the road. That’s a benefit for your future employer.

I love that you have a plan in mind. Keep that plan first and foremost and don’t feel like you have to share anything until the time is right. Of course, what is best for you and your career is paramount in this situation. Don’t add more fuel to the drama that’s already there.

Keep up with me and let me know how things are going. I’ll be cheering for your success!

Dr. David Rice

A: Love you have a big picture vision! Here are some tips that might help. 

  1. Keep your big picture front and center. Make your phone screensaver an image or a quote of where you are heading. 
  2. Place another one in the visor of your car. When you flip it down for that last mirror check, it becomes your “go get it” driver to start your practice days.
  3. When the toxic comes, take a deep breath and remember learning who not to be is as valuable as learning who to be. Find peace that the team is helping you in this way.
  4. If you feel the toxic is inadvertent and the team just doesn’t know what it doesn’t know, let’s find some one-on-one time to talk. We can walk you through how to have an honest conversation that will help.

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