The Benefits of Working Among a Diverse Dental TeamJun 20, 2022
As dental professionals, we prioritize creating a welcoming environment that makes our patients feel comfortable. When patients are comfortable, they are less stressed and more trusting of the providers of the care they receive. They become loyal patients who value our care and treatment recommendations.
In planning that kind of environment, many dental practices design their offices with amenities such as TVs and coffee stations and clinical comforts like music, neck pillows, and staff who are trained to cater to patient needs and fears. But as we create settings that focus on customer service and quality care, we might be forgetting one beneficial piece, the importance of diversity and fostering cultural competency within the dental team.
Creating Cultural Competency
Because our patients and team members come from varying backgrounds in terms of culture, race, religion, age, gender & orientation, having a dental team that understands, supports, and communicates with everyone effectively is crucial for practice success. Plus, having awareness of cultural differences within the staff promotes positive team spirit, expands understanding, and leads to appreciation.
Many practices already know that having a diverse dental team is necessary to better serve their diverse patient community. Progressive dental groups focus on culture and diversity through initiatives that build a diverse team and prioritize diversity training.
Building a Diverse Team
When a practice wants to build a more diverse team, it must create a workplace that is inclusive. Underrepresented minority groups are more attracted to companies that promote cultural competency. Attracting a more diverse team starts with policy changes that don’t just cater to one demographic but rather offer flexibility and inclusivity.
Making changes such as offering floating holidays that accommodate different cultural and religious needs, and providing gender equity and accommodation such as lactation spaces support the inclusive workplace model. Some offices even create a diverse & cultural group within their practice. A diversity & culture panel can work within the existing team and provide external outreach that can help them continually assess policy that changes with the needs of a diverse population.
Building a diverse team means hiring staff from all walks of life. Hiring a diverse team begins within leadership. Practice leaders must continually evaluate their hiring practices and recognize shortcomings that might be caused by unintentional or unconscious bias during the interview/hiring process.
As a dental team becomes more diverse, it offers superior customer service because patients encounter staff with whom they relate more closely, communicate more clearly, and feel respected. As team members connect with those of different cultures, races, religions, gender identities, or lifestyles, they naturally learn to understand and embrace the benefits of the diverse team and take that understanding into their patient interactions.
Prioritizing Diversity Training
Depending on demographics or specific needs, practices may need to direct their diversity efforts into targeted team training. Being able to provide culturally sensitive dental care doesn’t always come naturally to everyone.
Diversity training can help build knowledge, create awareness, manage individual differences with sensitivity, and improve ways to communicate with respect and clarity.
Benefits of Working Among a Diverse Team
According in Indeed, benefits of a diverse work environment include:
- Increased creativity & problem solving
- Smarter decision-making skills
- Boosts in production
- Reduction in staff turnover
- Higher company reputation
We can apply those benefits to the dental setting. Think of the ways that a diverse team could address common office issues like patient concerns, protocol roadblocks, inefficiency in production that may stem from poor patient communication & understanding, and the inevitable staff conflicts that arise. Working in a dental practice that values diversity can address all of those common issues with smarter and more creative solutions.
When a practice refines and improves, it journeys closer to offering the best care in the most welcoming atmosphere, which elevates the company and its team to the highest regard within its community!
About the Author: Suzanne L. Vila, RDH, PHDHP, B.A.
Suzanne is a Registered Dental Hygienist in Central PA who works in private periodontal practice and at a local college as an adjunct dental hygiene faculty. After a thirty-year career in dental hygiene, Suzanne is now creating non-clinical projects involving professional enhancement, public health initiatives, and patient education. In addition to being a passionate dental practitioner, Suzanne enjoys teaching fitness classes such as Pilates and yoga, volunteering with the local dog rescue Pitties.Love.Peace, and spending time with her family and their two rescued pit bulls, Rudy & Freya.