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A Staffing Shortage Has Found its Way to the Dental Industry

An overwhelmed dentist looking at his computer and dealing with a staffing shortage

The Great Resignation, also known as the “High Quit,” started in the Spring of 2021 and is the ongoing trend of employees voluntarily leaving their jobs (across all industries) in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

… This text opens a new tab to a report conducted by the Department of Labor…According to the Department of Labor’s JOLT report, a staggering 4.3 million workers voluntarily left their jobs in August 2021.

The … This text opens a new tab to a Harvard Business Review study…Harvard Business Review conducted an in-depth analysis of who exactly within the industries are driving this recent shift. It revealed that mid-career employees in the tech and healthcare industries have the highest resignation rates.

Looking at an August 2021 Poll from the ADA Health Policy Institute, we can see how The Great Resignation is directly affecting the dental industry and the recruitment of team vacancies:

  • 39% of owner dentists are recruiting dental assistants
  • 32% are seeking dental hygienists

Why are dental professionals resigning from their jobs?

There’s no doubt that the stay-at-home orders given in 2020 launched us all into having to think and do differently on many levels. It put us all in survival mode and caused us to think outside of the box to come up with new solutions on how to move forward in life again.

It doesn’t come as much surprise that the single most reason why dental professionals are leaving their jobs is that the pandemic has caused a shift in their priorities.

This was the first time in history that dental practices had to close down and force staff to stay at home. At that time, workers had time to think about what was important to them. They had become accustomed to being a stay-at-home parent and not having to pay for daycare, not having patient-to-patient contact or being exposed to OPIM, being able to cut drive time and expenses such as uniforms, gas, vehicle maintenance, and insurance.

To some, staying at home was a no-brainer as concerns for safety in the workplace grew. Workers started to put themselves first and began to think about the quality of their own lives and the changes they needed to make in order to get there. Many decided to take a different career path that would allow for more flexibility and work-from-home opportunities. Others pursued different educational avenues or decided to take an extended period of time off before entering back into the workforce.

To further our understanding of the increased shortage of workers, it’s important to recognize the root cause of all these resignations.

In doing so, perhaps this problem can be rectified before it happens at your dental practice.

Addressing the root cause of resignations

Once the root cause and underlying issues have been identified, the office can start to address the problem. An employer may ask themselves:

  • Is the increase in resignations being caused by internal or external reasons?
  • Are there areas within the workplace itself that could use some adjusting or is it related to an employee’s personal issues?
  • How can we do better at keeping dental professionals wanting to come to work at our office?

After the problem has been addressed, implementing the necessary solutions to remedy the recurrence of the problem in the future is key.

A dental assistant candidate holding up her resume

Slowing the staffing shortage

In the midst of The Great Resignation, having the understanding of why employees tend to stay where they are is also helpful to keep in mind.

Studies have shown that employees stay committed to their employers when they are:

  • Involved
  • Mentored
  • Paid well
  • Promoted
  • Empowered
  • Cared for
  • Appreciated
  • Valued
  • Trusted
  • Challenged
  • Listened to
  • Understood

Dental offices must determine if their work environment encourages these traits and adjust appropriately if not.

It is the practice owner’s responsibility to hire talent, train accordingly and applaud employees for their efforts in order for a healthy work environment to be established and maintained. Employees who are confident, knowledgeable, and respected in their profession will have a higher chance of staying committed to their employers.

Staff turnovers and shortages in the dental industry will continue to be a serious issue until respect and understanding are seen across the board.

The cure to this situation is to develop a high-quality dental practice management system that nurtures team and leadership growth. This can be achieved with the help of the entire dental team, dental consulting firms, and training programs.

Dental staffing resources

Additional resources to find up-to-date information about dental staffing:


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