It’s amazing how your dreams and ambitions can change from what you envision yourself doing as a child. I was determined to be a Respiratory Therapist. As a severe asthmatic, when I was a child I spent so much time in the hospital that when added up, I actually missed two full years of school. After all that time at the doctor’s office and in the hospital, I had decided I was going to do something to help other people with asthma because who can relate better with patients with a respiratory disease than someone who went through it themselves? Well, here I am 26 years later and I did not end up a Respiratory Therapist. Instead, I sit here today as a dental practice management consultant.
I can thank my asthma for leading me on this amazing career path, though. Because I was always so sick, my mother was constantly rescheduling or cancelling my dentist appointments. The staff at the dentist office was so concerned with me, that my mother actually became friendly with the office manager, so when I turned 15, my mother asked if they needed any help in the office because I was driving her crazy and she needed a part-time job. And so, it began!
I started off going in for a couple hours every Sunday. I was there all by myself, and I would file charts, pull charts for Monday and confirm appointments. Over time, I started going into the office after school to do the filing and some confirming, and at some point, they decided to start training me on how to work at the front desk. When I look back, I think of how different dentistry is now. Back then we had an actual appointment book for each doctor, used handwritten receipts, had paper charts and had a DOS computer that was barely used. Now, everything is done on the computer, and offices even have automated confirmation systems. Eventually I was taught the full routine of the front office and worked almost every day after school until 8 p.m.
One day during my junior year in high school, one of the assistants went home sick and they told me I had to go into the operatory and help the doctor. I had absolutely no idea what I was doing or what anything meant. The doctor was so patient and so helpful guiding me with what was happening with during the procedure that it got me thinking maybe this might be something I’d be interested in. So I asked if they could start teaching me, and one of the dental assistants took me under her wing and began teaching and mentoring me. I finally decided to go to school to become a dental assistant and was DANB certified for 15 years.
In 2004, while I was 10 weeks pregnant, I was in a car accident and had to spend the remainder of my pregnancy on bedrest. After the accident, I had chronic back problems and was no longer able to assist full time. Since I still had the administrative knowledge, I began working up front again and became the treatment coordinator and eventually the office manager.
After spending 20 years working in dental offices in different capacities, I felt I had reached my growth limit and decided to spread my wings. After starting and running two successful dental study clubs for administrative team members, I joined a local practice-management company.
I thought that after working in the field for 20 years I knew a lot, but during my time with that consulting company, I found out there was so much more for me to learn. The company worked with doctors in all phases of their careers, and I found myself drawn to the doctors who were looking to open a practice or had recently opened their own. More and more of my time was spent working with this type of doctor/practice, and I found I had so much knowledge that I could share with them to help in their success.
Again, I felt I had reached my limit with the small, local consulting company and decided to spread my wings once again and take my career in a different direction. Through a friend and a colleague, I found out about a position at a bank that was looking to implement a healthcare financing department and they wanted an expert to monitor the start-ups for their first 12 months of operation to ensure their growth was meeting industry standards and that they would be able to re-pay the loan. What a great opportunity this was for me, as not only did I learn a whole other side of dentistry, but I got to educate some of the loan underwriters on what is needed to open a dental office and what makes them successful. As interesting and enjoying as that position was after two and a half years I found myself longing to work side-by-side with the doctors who were opening their practices from scratch.
Being someone who has worked in the dental industry for so long, I had met a lot of people and apparently left lasting impressions with them. It was because of this that I began working in my current position with Ideal Practices, LLC, a company that only works with dentists that are looking to start up their own dental practice. This may seem corny, but I feel like I was born for this position. Coaching doctors who not only desire to be great clinicians, but also to be successful business owners is so special. I get so much joy from being onsite with them when they open for the first time and then seeing them celebrate their one-year anniversary and prosperity.
Again, I think it’s funny how life takes you on paths that you never thought imaginable. Never in a million years would I have imagined that I would have so much knowledge of the “dental world” and that I would actually have a niche in the industry. What a great 26 years this has been, and I can’t wait to see what the next 26 bring.