Dental office policies and procedures are important to have written out and accessible to all employees. Policies and procedures are there to protect you, your employees, and your patients. If there was ever a question about how an employee should handle a situation, the answers should be in your policy manual. Part of dental leadership is helping your employees know where to get answers to the questions that could come up. Everyone on a dental team should be on the same page which helps foster good team dynamics.
An employee handbook is essential to have in place as well. They typically focus on office policies that have to do with the employees themselves and less about overall dental practice procedures and policies in regards to treatment and patient facing issues. Some offices include employee handbooks in their policies and procedure manuals, but you can also have a smaller booklet for them to reference.
Before we dive into what your policies and procedures should include, let’s look at the definition of what a policy is versus a procedure.
A policy is a rule or statement of what should be happening.
A procedure is how that policy gets implemented.
What to include in your dental policies and procedures manual:
There are many good examples of dental policy and procedure manuals out there that you can follow. We are just going to outline the major categories you may want to include in your's and give you references to the examples mentioned above.
References for Dental Policy and Procedure Manuals
- Dental Office Employee Manual Policies and Procedures
- Dental Office Clinical Policies and Procedures Manual
- Overall Dental Policies and Procedures Manual Example
Office policies include a range of topics such as guidelines around information technology and policies around the use of devices at work, for example. Other policies include basic office operations, chain of command, emergency protocols in the case of fire, flood, gas leaks, etc... This section of your manual should include anything that would affect the office, at large, as well as day-to-day operations of the office. Office hours, mandatory meetings, and other such details can also be included here.
Employee Policies include everything that should be in an employee handbook. So, think of this as the employee handbook section. This is the place to communicate everything you need an employee to know about your dental practice, what's required of them, how to communicate with you and other employees, as well as get the information they need about various topics.
What to include:
- Job descriptions and responsibilities
- Employee rights
- OSHA Workplace Safety Laws
- Meal/break schedule and laws
- Time-off request procedures
- Guidelines for employee discipline
- Performance Reviews
- Continuing Education/Skills Requirements
These are just the basics, but check with your local, state, and federal laws to make sure you include everything that is required of you. There are many safety regulations and other employee laws you may need to add besides these basic categories.
There is a lot that goes into patient policies and procedures. The entirety of your practice's success is based on your patients coming back. It is imperative that you have clear policies and procedures around the treatment of patients, their safety, confidentiality, and patient rights. There are so many specific items to include here that you will definitely want a lawyer who specializes in patient care to look over your policies and procedures to ensure you, your employees and your patients are all protected. No one ever wants something bad to happen but that is why you have to prepare well with these policies in order to better prevent adverse things from happening and to properly take care of them if they do.
Safety policies and procedures are included to protect everyone involved, especially your patients. There are specific laws around workplace safety put out by OSHA, and patient safety put out by multiple organizations including the government. Safety procedures include having eye rinsing sinks, administering medication, equipment cleaning and maintenance, infection prevention and control, waste management, etc...
Make sure that you protect everyone involved by having these and other safety related laws, policies, and procedures clearly stated in your manual. You and your employees should read the manual each time it gets revised so that everyone understands what is needed and expected. Holding safety classes is also a great idea for office days where you aren't seeing patients. Making sure your dental assistants and hygienists take safety CE courses will help improve the level of safety in your office. Most states require some safety courses as part of the CE requirements.
There may be other information that you will need to include from both federal and state regulations. It is recommended that you have an attorney, who specializes in employment law and regulations in your area, look over your manual to ensure its compliance with the law. This should also take place before you distribute the manual to employees and repeated every year, in case of changes in the practice and/or laws associated with the policies and procedures.