Practice Transition Etiquette
David G. Dunning, PhD
As you make your transition from the university environment into private practice, remember that your behavior is still governed by professional ethics: autonomy; beneficence; justice; veracity. Here are some suggestions to guide your actions based on over ten years of assisting students transition into practice:
- Keep information confidential as agreed upon with the practice/dentist/ organization with whom you are negotiating. You may need feedback from an accountant, faculty, and/or other advisors. Make sure that this is acceptable with the practice/dentist/organization with whom you are negotiating.
- Prioritize your possible options before getting into the details of each opportunity. In other words, pursue the details in proportion to your interest in the opportunity.
- Negotiate primarily for one practice opportunity at a time after initial screening of options.
- Find out as much about the community, county, and state as you can before getting into details of each opportunity.
- Inform practitioners in a timely manner of your continued interest in an opportunity or lack thereof.
- Obtain the information needed to make an informed decision.
- Remain cordial, calm; maintain a business focus.
- Negotiate; if you don’t ask, you may not get what you want.
- Thank and provide feedback to those who provide you with referral opportunities.
- Monitor the involvement of your family members and the family members of the owner/employer. Extended family members may create unreasonable barriers in reaching an agreement.
- Watch how you are treated because this may be predictive of the future.
- Play people/opportunities against each other, particularly practices/dentists in the same city/county/area.
- Share practice-specific information with others unless you have clear permission to do so.
- “Burn bridges” with potential colleagues/peers.
- Break a business deal over comparatively small issues: 15 days for vacation instead of 12 days; a difference in salary of $5,000/year; paying $10,000 (or perhaps even $30,000) more for the practice than you think it is worth IF it is a good practice in a town/city in which you want to live/practice. This assumes you have already negotiated reasonable terms and provisions for a transition
- Be surprised by or pass judgement on elderly dentists whose patients may have untreated periodontal conditions, untreated caries, or whose practice may have outdated infection control, etc…
For decades, dental students have been graduating from university training and assuming the next phase in their professional career. By considering the aforementioned guidelines and applying a modicum of decorum and common sense, you will be in the best position to undergo this transition yourself.
*Professor, Department of Oral Biology, Lincoln, NE.