How to Train & Onboard Your New Dental Practice Hire

Training a new employee can be a costly adventure for any dental office. Not only is there the recruiting process, there is also the training process. Ensuring that proper training occurs will help you avoid costly mistakes. In a previous blog, I spoke about retraining an existing employee rather than replacing them, in this blog I am going to address the initial training and onboarding of a new team member regardless of their experience level and the importance of investing in the training process. 

Sometimes, when we hire a new team member with previous experience we do so because we assume their learning curve will be far less and they will know how to do “things.”  An experienced new hire needs just as much training or sometimes even more than a new grad. What may have been standard in another practice may be a “bad habit” in your practice.

For onboarding, you will want to ensure that every new hire has a great experience with their first interactions with the practice. In advance, have a package prepared with their employment contract, an office manual and a detailed job description with performance expectations and built in accountability. Have a plan developed for their first two weeks of training that will include tasks to be learned, who will be the responsible trainer and a meeting set up with the owner and manager at the end of the two weeks to review progress. All of these steps are worth the effort to ensure success with managing your expectations and the new team members expectations of the position. 

First and foremost, train every employee in the same thorough manner as if they had just graduated or have never worked in dental previously. If a new hire has previous experience just providing them with a handbook is not enough to send them on their way into your clinic. 

For a new administrator you will want to be sitting with them and training them thoroughly. Have them listen to your phone calls and then sit with them when they make theirs. You can even have a device that allows the trainer to listen to the call and prompt the new team member listening to phone calls and patient interaction is imperative. For a clinical team member, tray set up, IPAC and chairside preferences all need to be shown step by step. For a hygienist it is not only chairside skills that need to be shared, a prepared method of Doctor prompting, expectations around patient education for both hygiene and dental procedures all need to be shared along with your billing patterns.

My suggestion is always making sure one task has been mastered before moving onto teaching another task, an example of this for a new assistant would be ensuring that your entire IPAC program has been taught and the team member is able to replicate it on their own whether or not they are following your manual or they have their own notebooks. For tray set ups have photos available for reference for preferences. For an administrator, you will want to ensure that they are fluent in using the software in the same way as the rest of the office and patient interactions are in a manner that you are expecting.

Any learning curve in a new position can be steep for a new hire. Mistakes will happen no matter what, how you deal with the mistakes will be a determining factor in the success of your training. Find out why a mistake happened, it could have been something that wasn’t covered yet and the team member took initiative in a way that you may have not wanted or it could be something that was trained already and the method of training didn’t work for the team member. Either way you need to know why the mistake happened and what is the most supportive way you can ensure it doesn’t happen again.

At the end of the first month, you will always want to determine if your new hire is a good fit for your team. This means you will want to consider your opinion, your manager’s opinion and some key team members opinions. If the results aren’t fully positive then provide the new hire with goals needed for improvement, if the new hire steps up then you will know that this person will be suited for the practice long term at the end of the two months. If the new hire doesn’t step up by the end of the first two months after their feedback from the end of month one then you will know it may be time to start recruiting again. Most often I find though, that once provided with proper training and constructive feedback with tools for improvement your new team member will begin to shine.

Training is always difficult whether you are the owner, the manager or the new hire. Take the time to have the right systems in place to ensure that the transition is as smooth as possible. Take a look at the Mastermind Group for Office Managers if you feel this system could be improved in your practice. Learn more at

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