Securing Dental Talent in Turbulent Times: Strategies from Leaders

Position Your Practice for Long-term Success

In today’s competitive job market, attracting and retaining top talent in the dental industry has become more challenging than ever. As we navigate the “Great Resignation,” it’s crucial for dental practices to rethink their approach to talent management. Drawing inspiration from industry leaders like Chick-fil-A, we can uncover valuable strategies to create a positive workplace culture, hire the right team members, invest in employee growth, and provide exceptional customer service.

Your Employee Experience Is Your Employment Brand

In 2018, Gallup’s workplace analytics team emphasized the importance of the employee experience as the cornerstone of your employment brand. While many companies prioritize business strategy and financial aspects, it’s essential to remember that culture often outranks strategy in shaping your organization’s success. Culture encompasses the tangible actions and beliefs of your team, serving as the pulse of your practice. It’s what happens when the leader (not just the boss) leaves the room, and it continues to gain momentum by inspiring your people to conform to it. A strong culture unites everyone across different departments.

Empower Your Team with Problem-Solving Skills

Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs): Encourage team members to develop SOPs as guides for handling specific situations such as team member conflicts, difficult patients, HIPAA compliance, and OSHA requirements. Assign a leader responsible for updating these guidelines to ensure everyone stays informed.

  1. Diverse Problem-Solving Skills: While it’s impossible to anticipate every issue, you can prepare your team with diverse problem-solving skills. These skills are invaluable when facing unexpected situations, fostering adaptability and resilience.

Build a Team-Centric Culture

  1. Continuous Education: Prioritize team attendance at Continuing Education (CE) courses, whether live or virtual, throughout the year. Set goals for attending conferences and encourage knowledge sharing in team meetings.
  2. Software Updates and Training: Stay up-to-date with software and technology advancements relevant to your practice. Ensure that your team receives the necessary training to maximize their efficiency and effectiveness.
  3. Wellness Officer: Appoint a volunteer “wellness officer” responsible for checking in on employee health and monitoring the practice’s overall well-being. This role helps maintain a healthy work environment and strengthens team bonds.

Be Empathetic, Flexible, and Transparent

Times are stressful, impacting morale, health, wellness, and performance. Being empathetic, flexible, and practicing active listening can alleviate these challenges and strengthen team cohesion.
Transparency is crucial in maintaining trust and fostering a positive work environment. Keep your team informed about the state of the business, the COVID-19 situation, and emotional well-being.

Borrowing Ideas from Chick-fil-A

Chick-fil-A consistently ranks as a top-rated company for customer service. Their success is built on four strategic pillars that dentistry can adapt:

  1. Positive Culture
    • Your leadership should embody your practice’s core values and mission statement.
    • Ensure that your values influence your hiring decisions.
  2. Hiring Team Members That Fit Your Culture
    • During the hiring process, emphasize your practice’s core values to potential candidates.
    • Avoid hiring just to fill a void, as one negative team member can affect the entire office.
  3. Invest in Growing Team Member’s Skills
    • Provide comprehensive training for new team members, which pays off when they handle their responsibilities confidently.
    • Show your team members that they are valued, offer opportunities for growth, and invest in their development.
  4. Employees Comprehensively Trained in Customer Service
    • Focus on creating a positive work environment and nurturing relationships within your team.
    • Trust and empower your employees to handle customer service situations effectively.


By implementing these strategies, dental practices can not only attract but also retain exceptional talent during the challenging times of the “Great Resignation.” Building a positive culture, hiring the right fit, investing in growth, and prioritizing customer service will not only help you navigate the current talent shortage but also position your practice for long-term success. Your leadership will be the key determinant in achieving a better and more satisfying outcome for your team and your patients alike.



Seeking ways to enhance team communication while enjoying a winter retreat? It’s time to kick off your preparations for the CE In The Mountains all-team event, scheduled for February 23-24, 2024, in the picturesque Park City, UT.

This event will center around improving communication and boosting productivity through engaging activities in the stunning mountain setting.

Watch the short video below for more details.

Patient Retention vs. Acquiring New Patients

Don’t get me wrong, new patients are important for practice growth, but retaining existing patients has a greater practice impact.

They know the drill…pun intended.

• Maintain practice loyalty
• Keep appointments
• Show up regularly
• Accept treatment
• Book next appointments

What Should You Do to Retain Your Loyal Patients?

Patients are looking at healthcare providers and practices differently. 

Prosites, a dental marketing company, outlined 25 ways to Get Patients to Love Your Dental Practice. By implementing some of these ideas into your marketing strategy, you will attract and retain more patients and experience faster practice growth.

  • Demonstrate Honesty, particularly when   relating to insurance acceptance
  • Offer Financial Assistance
  • Provide Flexible Scheduling
  • Deliver Same-Day Dentistry
  • Maintain 5-star Online Reviews
  • Recognize / Appreciate Patient Testimonials
  • Appointment Reminders
  • Incentivize Patient Referral
  • Run On-Time
  • Friendly Team


Times have changed and patients are not as dedicated to our practices.  They are looking for an uber-customized experience.  If we are not providing that, they will look elsewhere.

How can we adapt?

  • Customize communication software to meet specific needs, generationally for example.
  • Engage the team in creating videos and messages. Use humor to increase patient engagement
  • Personalize texts
  • Always reschedule a broken appointment
  • Wellness calls work! Pick up the phone and chat!
  • Improve the patient experience at every opportunity

Cancellations and No-Show Solutions

This is a common theme for dental practices lately.

Communication: verbal, written, and virtual with continual reinforcement of the importance and value of the services our practice provides is essential. Creating a script, together as a team, with verbal skills that everyone uses regularly improves patient loyalty.

Try a few of these ideas to reverse the problem:

  • Rate your patients, A, B, and C based on reliability and payment status.
  • No-shows, cancellations, and outstanding balances should be lower-tier patients.
  • Create a  scheduling template for every provider and stick to it! It makes scheduling and filling holes much easier for everyone! Plus, it helps with practitioner efficiency. Such as three hygienists waiting for an exam at the top of the hour 5-6 times a day.
  • Allow one ‘Get Out of Jail Free’ pass for any scheduled procedure the patient cancels within 24 hours. Explain that the practice is busy, and patients are wait-listed to be scheduled. Respecting your practice time is appreciated.
  • Charge the patient a % of the scheduled procedure each time they cancel
  • Allow time in the schedule to provide same-day treatment. Your practice revenue will increase significantly.
  • “All hands-on deck”! Be persistent and consistent once you create a policy.

Dental practices are facing many challenges over the past few years with team shortages, turnover and a decrease in patient scheduling.  Doing the same thing we have always done will not change the way things are going.  A commitment to change is necessary to keep the boat from sinking and get all the entire team rowing in the right direction. It all starts with  communication and systems.

Bonus:  Watch Attracting and Retaining Dental Patients

Specialty Practice Communication: Challenges & Solutions Part II

Part II of this blog series will address the communication challenges and solutions with our Team Members and Practice.

Part I revealed details about the Patient interactions.

While presenting at AAOMS, American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons, we began the day with a group activity to identify daily communication challenges. The focus was on three areas: Patients, Players (team members), and Practice.

The diagram above reveals their responses in each category.

Players Challenges & Solutions

Expectations of the Team Are Not Well Defined or Communicated

When communication is not well defined or delivered, we become less impactful as a team.

Team communication starts with active listening by all members. Ask thought-provoking questions, be empathetic, and be flexible to increase understanding and decrease misinterpretations. Times are stressful and that impacts morale, health, wellness, and individual performance.

Build a team-centric culture so everyone is 100% involved and committed. Culture is the pulse of your practice! It is the tangible actions and beliefs of your team. It’s also what happens when the leader (not the boss) leaves the room.  A strong culture continues to gain momentum by inspiring everyone to participate and indivisibly links everyone together, no matter their department.

Here are a few team-centric ideas to try:

  • Attend team CE courses, live or virtual, all year.
  • Set goals for attending conferences and share information after the conference in a team meeting.
  • Assign a volunteer “wellness officer”, someone to check in on employee health and monitor the pulse of the practice.

Empower your team with problem-solving skills.

  • Have an SOP developed by the team members as a guide to handling specific situations:  team member conflict, difficult patient, HIPPA, OSHA…
  • Because the guidelines are rapidly changing, you need to have a leader to constantly study and update the APPROVED guidelines to keep everyone informed.
  • We can’t anticipate every issue that may occur, but you can prepare your team with diverse problem-solving skills, which are crucial when facing an unanticipated situation.

Negative Team Feedback

Negativity is contagious and impacts everyone. What started as ONE now becomes many negative experiences. Getting to know each team member and their communication preferences is a great place to start.  Communication interpretation is generational as well.

There is a communication process that needs to occur regularly to promote teamwork.

During daily, weekly, monthly, and annual meetings, a facilitator/leader in the practice (not always the DDS) is responsible for making sure each staff member brings completed reality checks, acknowledgments, and quality requests.

Your team relationships benefit from increased meetings and intentional communications throughout the year. I offer a presentation to dental teams focusing on meeting structure and customized outcomes which can improve your productivity significantly

Practice Challenges & Solutions

Bi-Directional Miscommunication Between the Doctor(s) and Team Members

Levin Group’s 30-year ongoing study of the top 10% producing practices revealed that they all had a culture of accountability within the practice.

The study indicated six ways to improve accountability:

1. Deadline/CTA – No deadline = No accountability

2. Realistic Time Management – How long, relative to the deadline

3. Deadline Flexibility – Allow for positive negotiation

4. Encourage Comments – Creating new strategies for completing the task and allows for renegotiating a deadline

5. Explain the desired results – Understand the task assigned

6. Encourage Questions – Thoughtful questions save time and energy. The desired result is more likely to be achieved.

The more accountable the team, the more efficient the practice, and the better the systems are followed. This all typically leads to higher profit, performance, and productivity. Happy culture and satisfying careers for everyone. Every team member does what they agreed to do.

Incomplete Information from Referral Practice

Make it easy for practices to provide a complete referral document. Assign one person to spearhead the referral process so things don’t fall through the cracks.

Starting with the patient handoff in the referring office. Discuss the communications that occur before the patient meets your practice. Make it personal, positive, and professional.

For example:

Hygiene to Office Manager in a General Practice

“Sharon, this is Linda our office manager. She will be taking care of you to schedule your next appointment with the oral surgeon and answer any questions you have about the implant treatment we recommended today”.

Design a handoff blueprint that referring offices have as a template in their software. Hint, make all the fields required so they don’t skip any information. Referral information should be sent promptly and include all the information needed. Request that the patient schedules the appointment with your practice while they are in the referring office.

Customize the information you need specifically for the treatment recommended. Expand on this list in an all-team meeting.

  • Date seen
  • Pt Name
  • Pt Age
  • Special considerations
  • X-rays-sent electronically
  • Pt history of the area
  • Diagnosis
  • Instructions

Every office is unique in its communication challenges. However, some common, repetitive issues occur. The more organized we are in preparing our team and referring offices, the better the outcome for all.

Watch Communication Tips on Study Club Referrals


The world is in a very fragile state.

Every interaction should imply H.O.P.E.


Open honest communication is always the best way to approach a fragile situation.


Provide people with options: 

Patients: Would you like to reschedule your appointment for June or would you like us to call you when our office is reopened? Please keep in mind we have many patients to re-schedule. You may not get in as quickly as you would like.

Vendors:  Can we place a hold on our auto shipment until we are back in the office, or should we accept the next one and get our office supplies fully stocked.  How are other offices handling this?


Focus on people…not the processes. 

Everyone is feeling isolated and anxious. Take the time to actively listen to everyone you interact with.  It will benefit you in the long game.


Empathy is a gift.

People are in different stages of dealing with this: 

Fear, Acceptance, Opportunistic

Try to recognize where that person is and realize that individuals handle stress differently.

If we can get to Acceptance, that is where we begin to move forward and become creative!

Keep in mind, some people may never be able to leave the fear / impulsive / protection stage.

Copyright 2020 Lisa Copeland. All Rights Reserved

Make Time to Focus ON Your Business


Make time to focus ON your business!

Having grown up in PA, Punxsutawney Phil was a celebratory day every year. Phil is a groundhog in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. On February 2 , Phil did NOT see his shadow which means spring is on the way and it’s time to come out of hibernation.

Is your practice ready to Spring into action with new marketing tactics?


Monthly Promotion

Each Month, promote a special on a selected procedure.

February is National Children’s Dental Health Month. According to an AAPD national survey, only one in four parents are taking their child to the dentist by his or her first birthday, the age recommended by leading health experts, which means that children’s teeth are at risk. Offer a free new patient exam for children 1 year old. Read more HERE about AAPD focus for February.

Try a New Marketing Platform

Adding a social media platform to your existing marketing plan may help you reach a wider range of existing and potential patients.

· YouTube Channel

· Twitter

· Instagram

· Facebook Page

Try posting a short video, VLOG, instead of a blog or newsletter.

Newsletter Brag

Have you implemented new technology or a new procedure into your office menu? Shout it from the roof top…or add it into your VLOG, so people know you are up-to-date with the latest and greatest!


Have you surveyed your patients on their preferred method of communication? According to ZipWhip, ALL generations prefer confirmation via text. Research shows that SMS (text) open rates are as high as 98%, compared to just 20% of all emails. And, on average, it takes 90 seconds for someone to respond to a text and 90 minutes to respond to an email.


My dad turned 95 years old with a surprise party hosted by my sister. As a traditionalist, he was raised on a farm in Lancaster PA, Pennsylvania Dutch territory. His mother passed away when he was 14 and his father and siblings ran the farm. He served in WWII at age 17, on the USS Alaska.  Married to my mom for over 50 years and retired from a lifelong career at the Bell Telephone Company after 50 plus years of  employment. His stories  of life and hardship are amazing. Our family wanted for nothing and lived a very modest lifestyle. 

Knowing what my dad has experienced in his life, when I work with traditionalists in my audience or dental practice, I always take the time to show my respect and get to know where they came from and what’s important to them.  It means so much to them and improves our relationship exponentially.

Happy birthday dad.  He is aspiring to hit 100!

Dental Professionals: Serve, Don’t Sell

iRONMAN Communication Increases Business Productivity

Lisa Copeland RDH, CSP


iRONMAN Communication Tip

Focusing on the patients Wants vs. Needs serves the patient rather than selling to them.

How do we balance our approach to create a positive experience for our dental patients that makes it easy for them to say ” YES” to the treatment prescribed?

My latest blog gives you a template for treatment plan delivery that will increase your “YES” rate.


Dental Drills

The “O” in iRONMAN is for Opportuniy

There are several ways you can transform patient treatment plan obstacles into opportunities.

1. Provide uninterrupted attention.  Unique qualities define each generation. Learning, understanding, and respecting each patients’ values is a powerful strategy to build your practice cliental. Applying a specific generational language to each patient will transform treatment plan obstacles into opportunities.

2. Switch things up!  Breaking the patterns of expectation with your patients will grab their attention! Now they are ready to actively listen and participate in decision making and taking action. 

3. Step outside the operatory.  Create a comfortable, private environment to present the patient with their treatment plan options.  The more relaxed a patient is when discussing treatment and finances, the closer you will get to “YES”.


Are You Getting to the Root of Your Problem?

In order to increase your treatment case acceptance, everyone on the team should be participating in a regular “check-up” with their communication skills.  We update many of the office processes and products, and protocols regularly:  emergency medical kits, patient health history, instruments, equipment…you get the idea. An annual team communication refresher should be a part of that process. Here are a few ideas to get you started in leveling-up your team / patient communication strategies.

· The entire team attends a conference workshop targeting communication.  This means Dr. too!

· Carve out time at your annual planning meeting to have a communication specialist present a topic specific to your practice needs.

· Collaborate with your team to asses what conversations are working and which ones are not. Keep reformulating the conversations that are getting positive results.


Where in the World is Lisa

When was the last time you faced a fear?  I seem to be tackling that challenge monthly lately, and I am beginning to like it!

Last month I tried downhill, mountain biking at Deer Valley Ski Resort, UT.  My first  challenge took me down memory lane, to the days of mastering loading onto a ski lift.                           

As I do with most new adventures, I:

· Observed other bikers approach the bike mount chair

· Listened to directives

· Acted by stepping up to the line to mount my bike on the chair lift. 

Success….insert happy dance here!

There I was at the top of the lift, ready to start riding down…yikes! 

My husband is a great mentor for setting me up for success.  He pushes me out of my comfort zone, yet  is always there to offer support, remind me to smile, and join in when I laugh at myself.

Not only did I survive, I really enjoyed learning something new, knowing it was a skill that will contribute to better overall mountain biking.

Lessons learned that we can apply to our dental practice.

1. In order to improve our business, we need to get out of our own way and comfort zone.

2. We all need mentors to enhance our success.

3. Challenge the office process and procedures.  Is the way we have always done it the best way, or should we  upgrade?

4. And lastly, one I have always been able to apply, keep a sense of humor.

Follow my lead and take a new challenge to level-up your team and your practice.

Good luck, I am routing for you!


Read Lisa’s Blog


What Communication Challenges Do You Have?

What dental communication topics would you like to know more about?
Share your ideas here and we’ll include them in upcoming newsletters.



IRONMAN™ training taught me how to be successful in business communication.
As a competitive athlete, I effectively apply lessons learned to help clients transform business communication into profit, performance, and productivity.

My experiences allow me to share meaningful / memorable stories that positively impact your bottom line. In fact, my iRONMAN Principles of training drive my lessons on the importance of generationally effective communication in business.

If you’d like to learn more about Lisa or book her to speak at your event please email or call / text 206.465.1637

Dental Relationships

iRONMAN Communication Increases Business Productivity

Lisa Copeland RDH, CSP


iRONMAN Communication Tip


Dental Drills

The “R” in iRONMAN is for Relationships.

According to Positive Psychology, people make an immediate and lasting assessment of you in the time it takes to snap your fingers.
Known as the two second rule, a first impression is a lasting impression! In dentistry, great first impressions are important when building relationships and brand loyalty with your patients and team.

The relationships you build with your patients are the cornerstone of your success. When   people like you, and feel emotionally connected to you, they are more likely to follow through with recommended treatment….which translates into practice growth. 

Have a look at my latest blog about dental relationships.

The other aspect of relationship building that contributes to your success is the education and training of your team.  Everyone should understand all of the procedures you are providing and be speaking the same language to each other and the patients. Consistency is critical to build trust.

Discover Lisa’s Seven iRONMAN communication principles here.


Are You Getting to the Root of Your Problem?

If our patients are distracted or disengaged it’s up to us, the dental professional team, to break the patterns of expectations and re-engage them.
A friendly smile / greeting for every patient. We have all encountered the administrative assistant that knows every patient and their family members the moment they enter your office. They even remember vacation destinations, birthdays and graduations! You may be working with “that” person right now! Never let them go! They are an incredible asset to your practice.

Collaborate in your huddle, (you are having a huddle right?), with your team and identify ways to engage patients scheduled for the day. Be sure to use the “generational language” suited best for each patient. Brush up on generational language customization here.

When we are comfortable and conversation is easy, it puts the patient and the team at ease.

Upcoming events: graduation, wedding, family reunion, vacation, sports,…

Discuss a personal story

Share a family connection

Thank them for a referral


Where in the World is Lisa

After living in Seattle for 20 years, my husband and I sold everything and moved to Park City, UT.  Our four criteria for selecting a new  location were: more sun, less traffic, abundant mountain biking, and awesome snow. Check, check, check, and check! It was a huge decision to make such a dramatic change to our comfortable life in Seattle. However, it was the right decision.  We are incredibly happy in our new home, making new friends, and taking on new adventures every week. 

It did not just happen.  It took a lot of hard teamwork, collaboration, sweat, tears, and weight gain too if I’m being honest, to make it a reality.

I’d like to challenge you to think about how dramatic change could impact your dental business.  The world around us is rapidly changing. If we continue to practice the same way we have, attrition will inevitably occur.  Human nature defers change. It’s: challenging, painful, and disruptive. 

What if change brought new ideas and increased productivity into your practice? 

A great place to start is with team building and customizing your internal and external communication. 


Read Lisa’s Blog


What Communication Challenges Do You Have?

What dental communication topics would you like to know more about?
Share your ideas here and we’ll include them in upcoming newsletters.



IRONMAN™ training taught me how to be successful in business communication.
As a competitive athlete, I effectively apply lessons learned to help clients transform business communication into profit, performance, and productivity.

My experiences allow me to share meaningful / memorable stories that positively impact your bottom line. In fact, my iRONMAN Principles of training drive my lessons on the importance of generationally effective communication in business.

If you’d like to learn more about Lisa or book her to speak at your event please email or call / text 206.465.1637

Managing Dental Patients Wants vs. Needs

The want vs. need dilemma is real for us all.

A want is a desire or a wish…like that new pair of furry boots I bought last week!  Did I need them?  Not really, but I justified buying them because I really wanted them. Needs, on the other hand, are necessities or obligations.  I need to fill the car with gas, or I will eventually be stranded.


The “O” in my iRONMAN Principles of Communication refers to opportunities.

Dental professionals, does this sound familiar?  A new patient in your practice has several conditions that NEED addressing. He came into your office WANTING to whiten his teeth.

How do we balance our approach to create a positive experience for this patient? What opportunities can we present that will marry his wants with his needs so he accepts treatment and achieves his goals?



Thank you so much for trusting our team to be your family dental partner.  What can we help you with today?  I noticed on your health history you are interested in whitening your teeth.  We offer customized whitening to all our patients so you achieve the best results possible. Let’s proceed with your exam and then we can discuss which option is best to whiten your smile. How does that sound?


Great!  I don’t have any other concerns, but it has been a couple years since I had a dental visit.


Good news, you are a candidate for in-office or take-home whitening and will get a wonderful result with either. Your gum health is fantastic. A regular maintenance therapy appointment is what I prescribe.

Your exam and x-rays disclosed a couple areas of concern: Two cavities between teeth on the UR and a fractured molar on the LL. I’d like to treat the cavities and repair the broken tooth before you whiten your teeth so you do not have any sensitivity with whitening.

We can complete your maintenance therapy, treat the three areas, and start your whitening all in one or two appointments.  Which is more convenient for your schedule?


Sounds like a plan.  I’d like to schedule two appointments. Thanks for asking.  When is your first opening? 


As a dental team, we should strive for a balance between the dental patients’ needs and wants.  Always respecting their goals, while keeping our dental practice mission in check and upholding the accepted dental standard of treatment.

Treatment case acceptance is all about the delivery!  

Copyright 2019 Lisa Copeland.  All rights reserved.

Dental Relationship Update: A Generational Approach

Relationships are the cornerstone of business and life.

Having just moved to a new city, where we do not know anyone, we have accepted the challenge and embraced the excitement of making new friends and routines.

For most of us, we are out of our comfort zone with change.  However, calculating and customizing your approach will make a huge difference in the end result.

Whenever I interact with someone new, I take a generational approach and ask myself:  How can I communicate from their generational perspective?


The “R” in my iRONMAN Principles of Communication refers to relationship building.

Learning to customize your generational language with each patient and team member will escalate the relationship building and drive productive results.

Learn more about customizing your dental generational language here.


Build the dental patient and team relationships according to their unique generational preferences.

  • Boomers and Traditionalists want to get to know you first, then talk business.  They value dental health and often have financial resources for treatment.
    • Be Aware of being all business, you’ll lose this patient or team member
    • Be Thorough with explanations with a relaxed conversation
  • Gen X prefer brevity and directness; Utilize technology if appropriate; Minimal chit-chat after business
    • Be Aware of asking too many personal questions
    • Recommend ideal treatment options that include a treatment schedule and financial plan
  • Gen Y and Z demand technology; Enjoy interaction and genuine connections: Seek an experience; Utilize text / instant messaging.
    • Be Aware that email and voicemail will not prompt a response
    • Maximize appointment time and provide same day service (if possible)
    • Create a strong online presence to attract patients and employees

Learn more here about generational differences in patient engagement.


“Autopilot” during our dental day definitely has a place.  But I challenge you to ask yourself, “Is there is a better way to communicate with this patient or team member to yield better results?” 

Take a chance on change and break the dental routines that we covet.  You’ll discover that it:  improves your interactions with patients and team members, positively impacts efficiency, and leads to practice productivity.

It isn’t enough to only institute changes at the management level. We all need to commit.  Give it a try next week!

Copyright 2019 Lisa Copeland.  All rights reserved.