More business training for young dentists needed

Should young dentists be more business savvy when they leave university, Nigel Jones questions.

Ever since I started working with the dental profession, back in 1990, people have bemoaned the lack of business training for dentists at undergraduate level and, on the face of it, this is a legitimate concern.

After all, they can end up running a small business with turnovers of quarter of a million pounds, half a million pounds or even multi-millions.

Business skills

I’ve always tended to be slightly cautious with the idea of focusing on business skills at university as, by the time most dental students have become business owners, many years are likely to have passed, so any knowledge will have fallen into disrepair or even become outdated.

However, I’m increasingly of the view that insufficient time is spent on preparing young dentists for the ‘real world’ of life outside of university.

At one level, this could be down to something simple, like the influence of money on the decisions patients make about their care, and a lack of confidence for the newly qualified dentist in talking about the financial cost of treatment will almost certainly have a bearing.

At the other end of the scale, this preparation could focus on managing the expectations of prospective dentists about the challenges of owning a dental practice.

This could include the various risks of complaints, litigation, cash flow problems, ineffective marketing, etc, and how they can best be mitigated.

The world has changed massively for practice owners in the last couple of decades and it is without doubt a more pressurised environment in which to run a small business in dentistry.

However, instead of focusing on the so-called ‘good old days’ of dentistry, perhaps it’s time for more of us ‘old hands’ to concentrate more on providing the practical and motivational support young dentists will need to ensure a bright future for them as individuals and for the profession as a whole.

This issue was one of the topics discussed recently at Practice Plan’s NHS Insights Panel, which included professionals such as Eddie Crouch and Simon Thackeray, as well as younger dentists.

Read more about the debate.

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