I am wondering how to tell when your office requires another hygienist? The office I work at is currently open 26 hours a week (3.5 7-hr days) of which I work 24.5 hours (I have another job I have to balance). I am the only hygienist in the office. When I started there 2 years ago there was not much of a recall system in place, the clients I saw were poorly maintained and I was not booked much in advance, if at all and I never saw more than 8 clients a day. Often I was told to work less hours to accommodate the sparse hygiene bookings. In the interest of "job security" and in the oral health of my clients I started educating them and encouraging them to pre-book their next appointments. This strategy worked well at first and the oral health of my clients improved immensely, as well as my hours increased. However it worked so well that now I am booked 5-6 months in advance and I see anywhere from 8-14 people a day.
I have nowhere for my 3-4 month perio clients to book or for new clients and as a result overall oral health of my clients is regressing. My dentist is not sure if we really need another hygienist and if so, do we start looking for someone for the 3.5 days the dentist works or only need someone one or two days a week? There are not a lot of hygienists in our area either so hiring someone with less hours that could be increased over time is not really an option for us. What I do know is that I have gone from being underbooked to overbooked. Your advice on this matter is greatly appreciated!
Congratulations on turning this situation around! First of all, there is no magical answer to your question in terms of timing and it seems as though it may be challenging to add an RDH part-time in your area, but at the same time not having room for new patients and those who now value a closer interval is a situation that must be addressed soon. Otherwise, patients will find another office they can book in a timely manner.
My immediate suggestion is to pre-block (literally reserve) 2 appointments per day in your schedule for new patients, periodontal maintenance, or SRP patients. Go out to your next available openings and begin pre-blocking immediately. Most software systems enable you to set a template and block for certain appointments so this will not be hard to do. You also need a “priority” list for new patients, periodontal maintenance patients, and those needing SRP. These are the first ones to call with any new opening or change in your schedule. You need to be strategic about whom you offer those available appointments to.
Without knowing about your new patient and retention flow in the practice, I’m at a disadvantage to advise you for certain on the number of days you would need to add. Based on what you shared, I would think adding an RDH with 1 -2 days a week as soon as possible would help alleviate your issues. I would also pre-block his or her schedule for new patients, periodontal maintenance patents, and SRP right from the beginning.