Our series focusing on different career options in dentistry is now well under way. First we looked at careers in the community service and then, the most common pathway, of practice life. We showed you how to choose a practice, what questions to ask at interview and what you should be looking for when you attend a practice visit. One area we didn’t cover was the issue of corporate dentistry.
Still perceived as a relative new sector, it has grown in recent years and is now a very real prospect for many graduates. But what is it really like to work in one? Do they differ from practices that are owned by one or two dentists? And how do you know which company is right for you?
The first point to make about corporate dentistry is that you may not intentionally choose to go into it. Many graduates find that their Vocational Training (VT) practice is also a corporate and are so pleased with their overall experience that they end up staying on at the practice and therefore starting a career within the corporate sector.
You may find that you only have some basic knowledge about corporate practices from careers lectures at dental school, but don’t worry if this is the route you end up
taking. In many cases graduates find that there are few practical differences between working for an individually-owned practice and a corporate. And for those that do want to know more, many people learn quickly on the job and experience is the best teacher, giving you all the information you are likely to need.
One of the main advantages of working for a corporate is that you are able to move more easily to different areas of the country than would be possible if you were just working at an individually-owned practice. For most people getting to know a new area is tough at the best of times, but when you have to find a new job as well it becomes even more difficult.
Getting to grips with the right areas of a town or city and finding out who has a good reputation can be complicated and that is where a move within a dental corporate can come in handy. If you are transferring within an existing company you will know what to expect from the practice and while no two practices are the same, even within a corporate, they will be working to certain guidelines, making it easier for you to slot into practice life quickly.
Another plus for corporate practices is that they are all usually equipped to the same standard. Of course this shouldn’t be taken as gospel and you should always check that a practice has the equipment you need before signing on the dotted line, but many corporates have a general policy on equipment meaning that you can expect a good standard. If you do feel that something is missing, make sure you ask for it.
Usually the ordering of equipment isn’t handled by the dentists but by a practice manager, so tell them exactly what you want and give them plenty of time to get hold
Another feature of some corporate dental chains is clinical directors. Usually one clinical director will be assigned to each region and they are charged with giving help and support to the dentists they are responsible for. This can be particularly useful for recent graduates as it gives you access to a support network that is sometimes lacking in a busy individual practice. Having someone to talk to about any problems can give you the kind of security you are looking for when you have recently qualified.
Of course, with any job there are going to be things that you like and things that you don’t. Corporate dentistry is no different. One of the criticisms sometimes levelled at corporate practices is that there is a high turnover of staff. Whether this is because they generally employ younger dentists who tend to move around more in their first few years outside of university or because there isn’t such an atmosphere of practice loyalty at the corporates, is unclear.
Whatever the reason, it is something you should be on the look out for at the interview stage. Ask how long the current staff members have been working at the practice and if it isn’t very long, ask why they moved on. For some dentists, having a consistent set of colleagues at your practice is vital for a happy working life and for others it isn’t so important – you have to decide what matters to you most.