How to Foster a Culture of Lifelong Learning at Your Dental Clinic

One of the things that makes dentistry such an exciting industry to work in is the fact that, just like the software industry, the field is constantly changing.

As new research turns up new information, and new software creates new service possibilities, dentistry continues to evolve to provide patients with better care. This means that dental professionals need to regularly upgrade their skills so they can take advantage of new breakthroughs. 

Lifelong learning – continuing education in one’s field – can pay off in a number of key ways.

Enhancing Skill Set

There’s evidence to suggest a direct correlation between learning and improved efficacy in the workplace – after all, learning is much like exercise for the brain. Studies show that continuing education leads to more efficiency, lower rates of absenteeism and equips those continuing to build their skill set with a better ability to meet the demands of a fast-paced workplace (like a busy dental clinic).

Earning Potential

Out of all the benefits continuing education offers, a boost to earning power is one of the most tangible. The good news is that continuous education can often be accessed online which provides a convenient way for busy professionals to build their skill sets.

Curiosity Booster

Many psychologists view curiosity as a crucial factor to happiness, intellectual growth, and overall mental health and well-being. But as we get older, we tend to let everyday tasks and pressures block out or overshadow our naturally curious natures. Continuing education allows to us to tap back into that curiosity, leading to an improvement in mental health and sense of self.

Collaboration Opportunity

Continuous learning encourages collaboration, plain and simple. Whether through actual group work in a classroom setting, learning new software in an online community or shadowing a supervisor in the workplace, collaborative skills are naturally nurtured.

But while most dentists understand the importance of ongoing training in theory, it can be difficult to put this into practice.  It isn’t always easy to stay up-to-date when you have multiple commitments and priorities and it can be even more difficult to ensure that the rest of your staff participate in regular training sessions.

If you are passionate about providing high quality care to your patients, your staff need to be equipped  to use the newest information and the latest techniques. Normalizing regular, ongoing training and lifelong learning as part of the culture of your dental clinic is key.

Here are four ways you can get started.

1. Don’t Make Training a Special Event

When it comes to scheduling training, one of the most common mistakes clinic owners make is trying to fit a year’s worth of education into a weekend retreat. While training can seem like a disruption of the everyday running of the clinic, cramming a lot of learning into a short period of time is simply ineffective and can be a waste of resources.

Numerous studies have shown that training is most effective when it takes place on a regular basis, giving trainees the opportunity to regularly review new information and incorporate learning into day-to-day life. Making training a regular part of your clinic’s schedule increases the likelihood that you will be able to keep it up over the long run. 

2. Incentivize Learning

If nothing else lifelong learning in healthcare is important to simply remain competent – in a fast-moving industry like dentistry, if you aren’t moving forward you’re going back.

Your clinic benefits from having hygienists, assistants, and receptionists who are staying up-to-date on the latest customer service methods and dental procedures, so it only makes sense to incentivize education. Paid time for training and making regular training a prerequisite for advancement are ways to give your staff a reason to commit themselves to developing their skills and knowledge. 

3. Model Good Learning Habits

Your staff look to you for leadership in all areas of work. For example, if you as head of the clinic want to adopt new practices like going paperless,  start by explaining the rationale and what the benefits will be for the entire team. 

The same is true of learning. If your staff can see that you are constantly updating your credentials, following new research, and improving your own knowledge of patient care and patient service, they will be more likely to value these things themselves and respond accordingly.

4. Invest in Learning

When it comes to employee training, the two biggest obstacles will always be time and resources. Most clinics are good about finding time for training staff on new software because this has an immediate practical implication – it’s when it comes to big picture stuff that things get difficult.

You need every hand on deck to help with patients during business hours and staff may be reluctant to pursue work-related tasks on evenings, days off or weekends. The simplest way to deal with this challenge is to schedule some training during regular hours rather than paying overtime. Your staff will be less likely to suffer from burnout and the return on investment should outweigh any lost patient revenue.    

The importance of ongoing education for healthcare workers – and dental workers especially – cannot be overstated. By holding regular training sessions, incentivizing learning, modelling good behaviour, and investing in learning management software for dental clinics, you are making lifelong learning an integral part of your clinic’s work culture.

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