Help…My Dental Assistant is Always Late!

By: Ronda Holman

Hi dear reader, my name is Ronda Holman and I have been sitting across from a dentist for a living for the last 25 years.

I thought it might be time to make some written confessions as to what I have been guilty of over the years and how my dentist was able to effectively mold me into their dream dental assistant. 

Being “On Time” as Dental Assistants

Once upon a time, I thought on time was arriving on time, but in dentistry, as you know on time is actually late! That’s right, if your patient is at 9 o’clock and you get there at 9 o’clock you, my friend, are late. 

There are two ways a dental assistant becomes a late-arriving dental assistant.

  • Number 1: They were never taught to be on time or had no one emphasize the importance of being early.
  • Number 2: They have poor time management skills.

Both excuses are just that, excuses. So let’s help your dental assistant arrive to work early instead of on time.

How to Help Your Dental Assistant with Being On Time

1. Clear Directives

A clear directive looks like this;

“Hi, Betty. I, as your employer, expect all of my employees to be here by X time. If one of my employees cannot be here by X time, I expect to be notified via phone or text with the reason they will be late. I require advanced notice of your lateness as much as possible.”

And this will be followed by a warning system to emphasize the gravity of the situation.

“I understand being late due to unforeseen circumstances is outside of your control. However, we have a three-strike policy, if the flowchart is not followed, or the excuses of your tardiness become redundant and within your control.”

Side note, make sure to have it in writing in your employee handbook exactly what your policies are to include required hours of employment.

2. A Checklist

Checklists are a great motivator to encourage your employees to be early. Your job is to compose a checklist of things that need to be done in your office before the first patient is seated.

A few examples of what could go on your checklist:

  • Compressors are on
  • Dental chairs are turned on and in the receiving position
  • Rooms are set up and ready for the first patient
  • The ultrasonic is filled
  • X-ray equipment is turned on

It is your job to emphasize how important that checklist is to be completed before your first patient. This incentivizes your dental assistant to arrive at work early instead of their version of on time.

In Conclusion

Remember, threatening punishment to your dental assistant may backfire. The best plan of action always looks like systems instead of corporate punishment if you want your dental assistant to stay with you.

On the flip side, if your dental assistant isn’t quite what you thought they would be or can’t meet your expectations, it is completely acceptable grounds for termination of employment with repeated lateness (just make sure to document each event and detail when your assistant is late).

I leave you, dear reader, with one of my favorite sayings:

  • If you’re early, you’re on time!
  • If you’re on time you’re late!
  • If you’re late, you’re embarrassing yourself!

Keep Reading: Help…My Dental Assistant Wants a Raise

Photo by Cats Coming

Ronda Holman

Ronda Holman

Ronda Holman found her passion for dental assisting while in the Air Force. She assisted in oral surgery, general dentistry, and ended her four-year service as a prophy tech, the military’s version of a dental hygienist. She married and spent 13 years traveling the country while her husband served in the Air Force. Each time Ronda relocated she got the opportunity to work in a new dental office, where she picked up pearls that have helped her become an expert in educating dental assistants. Her interests are immediate denture/partial fabrication, CEREC technology, patient education, and striving for optimal chairside skills. Ronda believes that every dental assistant has the potential to be a rock star assistant if given the right tools and guidance.