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Dental office checklists: Your key to systems optimization!

Checklists in the dental office may not be the newest of ideas, however we do see many teams implementing the use of checklists ALL wrong!

There are many trainers, consultants, and speakers, who teach about the importance of checklists to ensure team members are doing…well, what they are supposed to be doing. We completely agree!

Checklists are extremely useful when training new employees and breaking down the systems in place. A checklist or checksheet, is a list of the systems your office has established in order to keep things running smoothly in the office. These lists will ensure important processes are not forgotten about.

Not quite sure where to start? Here are some dental office checklists ideas we recommend drafting first!

  • How to answer the phone
  • How to fill a last-minute cancellation
  • How to set up a room
  • How to turnover a room
  • How to train new employees (detail all the things a new employee needs to learn)
  • How to order supplies/list of supplies that require ordering
  • A dental practice management checklist: Think about each integral step you take in a day and create a checklist for it. (Yes, really!)

Although building these checklists can be time-consuming, the time it takes to draft these documents will be far less than the time it WILL take to fix tasks done incorrectly!

“I don’t need a checklist – I remember everything!”

You may have heard your dental team say it…or maybe even YOU have been the one saying it!

One thing to keep in mind is that checklists are not here to prove whether or not the team knows how to do their job, they’re here to ensure consistency.

With the use of checklists, the next time a team member needs to be trained, there is an organized list for them to follow.

These documents are our checks and balances (no pun intended) to make sure all the steps needed to complete a task are being followed. What I find many times when asking an employee why they did not do something or why they dropped the ball, the answer usually falls along the lines of “they didn’t know it was supposed to be done that way”. When an employee is given a checklist that lays out the specific steps in order to accurately complete a task, there are less likely to be mistakes.

5 Steps to Implementing Checklists in your dental practice:

#1 — Teaching your team about the importance of these checklists and explaining the WHY behind wanting to do this, is vital!

#2 — I do not suggest going into work tomorrow and writing check sheets for everything right now. You should pick one or two things that every employee does, and have them write out the steps involved.

Ask each employee to write one check sheet, put it in the file, then have them pick another task to work on the following week. If you just start the process of doing this now, the quicker this will become part of your everyday process and the next time your team needs to know how to do something, you can provide them with the check sheet.

This process will fall quickly into your team’s routine and before you know it, everything will be outlined in your new checklists, detailed with all the steps. Then, when a process changes, the check sheet can simply be updated.

#3 — You do NOT need to buy dental office check sheets and training manuals! Of course, you can buy template checklists, check sheets and pre-made training manuals, but the issue with this is that these types of documents never get used because they are not customized specifically for your office!

#4 — Develop checklists, check sheets and training manuals in-house! These types of working documents in a dental office need to be made by you and your team, not written by a team who has never set foot in your dental office! YOUR team should be the ones to document everything and all their tasks the way they are supposed to be done in your practice.

#5 — Keep your checklists, check sheets and training manuals in a live document! Keep this living document somewhere where it can be changed and updated as processes develop.

Yes, it can take a lot of time to develop a dental office checklist but once these checklists have been written and a team member is in need of training, these new documents detailing all the steps to follow, will save more time than it took your team to write them.

If you want to get your team organized and improve systems in your dental office, you need to document it and the best people to handle this will be the people who know how to do the job!

Need a little inspiration to help get your first checklist started? Check out our Sample Checklists and Check Sheets available for our members to download AND customize in our Documents Library! (Not a member yet? We would love to have your team join us!!)

Laura Nelson

Laura Nelson, BS, MS, FAADOM is the founder and driving force behind Front Office Rocks, and the leading provider of on-demand virtual training and resources for dental practices.