Nathan Poole FCCA
Nathan Poole FCCA

How much holiday is it feasible for a dentist to take? And would our advice to an associate differ from advice to a practice-owner? A thoughtful LinkedIn post by a dental colleague prompted us to reflect on this issue. His post recommended 12 weeks of holiday, but as a non-dentist, with no responsibilities to patients, is that a luxury a clinician can’t afford?

We concluded, however, that if communicated correctly, twelve weeks a year, to include weekend and bank holidays, can be manageable. Building in time away from the practice diminishes the risk of burn-out and improves quality of life. Quite often we find clients who are starting to experience the first signs of burn out have, for one reason or another, simply not built in time away from the practice. If you do not plan downtime into your diary, it will fill up making it impossible to get away.

As a general principle, we believe a well-run practice should strive to be less reliant on the principal. We encourage our practice principals to nurture a good support team, especially a reliable and effective practice manager, and, as most principals need an admin day, to consider working a maximum four-day clinical week.

Clients can be resistant to this advice, either because they like to be at the coalface or because they think they can’t afford it. But often it is simply about understanding the numbers: we find ways to demonstrate a four-day week can work. There are lots of options for differing income streams that contribute to the profitability. Whilst it is normal for the principal to provide the most profitable income stream, there is also a cost to that which may not always be obvious. The profitability of the practice can be maintained by means such as using the practice facilities differently, amendments to the working hours, or, using available chair time for a visiting specialist or hygienist. It is important to ‘sweat the assets’ but that doesn’t mean it’s all about the owner doing the sweating! Clients who follow our advice find their profitability remains constant – or improves – and they feel better about their lives.

In summary, our advice to all dentists is:

  • Identify your personal and professional goals

  • Plan a strategy to fulfil your vision

  • Have systems and support in place so the practice runs as well when you are off site as it does when you are there