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Deb Roberge

Innovator Series

We discuss:
- The elephant in the room for dental teams
- Common fears and concerns
- Communicating to create harmony

Video transcription:

Liz Lundry, RDH - Hello, welcome to the StellaLife Innovators Series. I'm Liz Lundry, I'm a hygienist, a consultant and the clinical education manager for StellaLife. At this turbulent time, dental professionals are experiencing a lot of anxiety and negativity. There's tension between dentists and their teams. People are scared. They're worried about their safety as well as their financial future. So today, we're going to hear a perspective on the situation from Deb Roberge. Over the last five decades, Deb has contributed so much to the dental industry as an expert in team hiring, consulting, practiced leadership, software development, and so much more. She started out as an assistant and has been an office manager and an administrator for different practices before she began her own businesses. So she's been in the trenches and as a liaison between the dentist employer and the dental professional, she's well aware of the additional challenges facing us today. So let's hear from Deb Roberge.

Deb Roberge - Well, thank you, Liz. I so appreciate this opportunity to participate in this wonderful series and share a little bit about my background in history in 50 plus years in dentistry. I know it's crazy, I know. I found my calling in 1997 when I realized that my history in dentistry, since the mid 60s, brought me to a place where I felt there was a huge need to assist in the development of teams, from the hire, to the integration, to the maintenance of dental teams and slowly found myself a bit of an advocate, a team advocate. And I wanted so much for the process of hiring to change. And so I have been a troubadour so to speak, for the past 25 years, working with practices to not only hire but to hire with thought, to hire, with process, to hire with meaning. And so over the years, I found that there was a tremendous need for a format in which to hire appropriately. So after doing quite a bit in the field, I was an advisor, I owned a bridge lab for many years, I sucked spit like the rest of us, right from the start, and worked in the business office and, you know the story. But I decided I had this vision. So based on my history working with practices, face to face on site, that I would create a dental placement agency that not only assisted in the placement of permanent personnel, but that did it with a structure. So along with a wonderful attorney that guided me and blessed everything that I developed to make sure it was totally sanctioned legally, I created a dental placement agency in Phoenix, and actually, I interviewed well over 3000 dental professionals up close and personal. And so through that time, I really listened and I really learned and I found that the company that I thought was just going to be a lark became really big. The business model I had created along with my wonderful husband, who developed the software to support the business model, became a national franchise. So from there, we had eight locations. I was a busy girl flying all over the country, setting them up but after about five years, I felt it was time for me to settle down. So I sold the entire franchise system but I found myself continuing in this particular venue, placing personnel. And so I've spoken to hundreds, and particularly now. And what I want to discuss briefly here with all of your listeners is something I'm going to call "Playing nicely in the sandbox". The climate is so different, and there's an elephant in the living room that no one is truly addressing and that is the conflict between the employer, dentist, and the team members. The concerns are great from both sides. The team members want to know exactly what will be done to safeguard them along with patients, of course. The dentists are frantic because they've invested not only time, but tons of money to make sure that they were totally compliant to the rules and regulations that are put forth to them today. Why are we not getting along? And why are we finding that particularly hygienist, and rightfully so, they are right in the firing line, they're right up close and personal. And so one of the things that I recommend in order to help with the conflicts that I'm seeing and hearing, and of course, social media has all kinds of activity on these subjects right now, is to please, create a very comprehensive overview of what you as a practice for doing to not only safeguard your patients, but to safeguard your team. Now, granted, they're going to see a lot of new things coming in to manage the aerosol situation and the PPE and so forth and so on, but truly spell it out. And not only that, if and when you feel the need to hire new employees, utilize this when you write an ad, when you place an ad on any kind of other media, make sure that you include an overview of what you are doing in your practice in writing, to safeguard it. The other thing is respect each other's position. Doctors, yes, you may find that you're just so irritable after all that you've done and all the money you spend, and rightfully so. And then team members, you're feeling it as well. You're frightened, you're confused, your hours may change, the situations in your practice, the systems, the protocols are all going to change. We need to come together. We need to make sure that the business of dentistry does not fall apart. I know many are taking advantage of the fact that you can stay home now and maybe think it out and decide what you want to do and, quite frankly, everyone has the right to their own feelings on all this. But why would you leave a profession that hopefully meant a lot to you going into it? We need you and we need each other. So we need to come together and not drift apart. And with unemployment at an all time high, dental professionals need to think twice about jumping ship because hopefully the job they chose way back when or maybe just a year ago, or maybe just months ago was the job they chose based on passion. And what are these alternatives? We really don't have any. So I'm here to say, let's play fairly in the sandbox. Let's communicate, let's be open, let's share. Let's not assume. Assume it's a very dangerous word, because so often I will speak to a client or I'll speak to a job seeker, and the word assume comes up. "Yes, I assume so". Don't assume, ask, learn, know. Get yourself up to speed so that you can make a very educated decision. And quite frankly, doctors, if you have an employee that is resistant, that just feels that this is no longer the environment for them, don't chastise them for it. It's okay. And I can tell you from my experience that there are a number of people still seeking employment, but I will also tell you one of the reasons that I am fortunate enough to attract them is because I make sure in every bit of the dialogue I put out there, I let them know that I will be supplying them with an overview of what my client will be doing to prepare their practice, to keep you and your team and your patients safe. So again, play safely in the sandbox, play friendly in the sandbox, but please play in the sandbox once again. We need our dentistry and we need it to be just the way it used to be with some tweaks, with some tweaks, but we can do it. I want to thank you, StellaLife, for giving me this opportunity. And I also want to end with just a little information here, an unsolicited testimonial from me. A couple of years ago, it was determined that I was tongue tied, I had no idea. I had no idea. And so I had a frenectomy and I was fortunate enough to be supplied with some wonderful rinses and all the topicals I could use to heal well and so forth from StellaLife and I will tell you, my goodness, that stuff is amazing. I felt wonderful. It really was my go to and it helped me so much and I healed beautifully and I heal quickly. Anyway, thank you so much for listening. Come on, let's go, guys. We can pull this together and we can make dentistry just as wonderful as it has been. I can tell you this is my 53rd year in it and I can't think of doing anything else. Thanks again StellaLife. Thank you, Liz. I'll see you again.

Liz Lundry, RDH - Thank you so much, Deb. Let's all take her words to heart. Yes, times are tough. I think the toughest I've ever seen in 40 years in dentistry. But together we can create the future that we want to see. It's up to us to unite, and only together can we win. So let's stay positive, let's take care of each other. So have a wonderful weekend, and we'll see you next week. Thank you, everybody.