Sunday, 21 April, 2024

01 Mar 2005 | Australasian Dental Practice

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Up-to-date practice key to securing a new associate

There are many reasons to keep your practice looking fresh and up-to-date. It conveys a professional image to your patients, you and your staff will enjoy working in a contemporary environment and if you're looking to hire an associate, they will be more tempted to work in a smart, modern practice. While competition for dentists with good hands is hot across the board, consider the specialist market.


Dr Jeshri Pattni completed her BDS in England in 1986 and in 1998 an MDS in Periodontics at The University of Queensland. She decided to practice in Sydney and exactly five years ago, started seeing patients at a friend's practice in Cremorne on Sydney's Lower North Shore. This practice had been successfully fitted out by Levitch Design Associates (LDA) and Dr Pattni enlisted their services as well when the time came to move.

LDA were commissioned to design a 3-surgery practice to Dr Pattni's specifications and she somewhat nervously opened her specialist practice on April 6, 2001 (See Australasian Dental Practice September/October 2001).

Four years later, investing in a quality fit-out has paid off in spades for Dr Pattni as she now has a successful practice and has been able to employ Dr Paul Gosling, a Periodontist, her new associate.

According to Dr Pattni, as an unknown in 2001, the first year in practice had been slow. Periodontal therapy and the assessment of the response to treatment takes time, so it was only when her first patients had returned to their referring dentists many months later and given positive feedback, that further referrals started to flow. By the end of the second year, she was comfortable with the volume of her bookings.

Dr Pattni had initially prepared a comprehensive business plan for her bank manager and now she found she was doing much better than projected. She began to look for an associate but it took two years to find one. Last year there were only a handful of periodontal graduates in the whole of Australia and she was successful in attracting Dr Gosling.

So why go into an associateship when practice ownership beckoned?

"I have not run my own practice," Dr Gosling said, "and I wanted to settle into my specialty without other responsibilities to distract me. I don't feel I can do both at the same time. I grew up nearby and importantly, I share Jeshri's approach to the practice of periodontics.

"I was fortunate to have practised as a GP in some very modern surroundings and I was comfortable with the clinical standards of this practice."

A further example of the benefits of a planned fitout is the way the consultation room is used. The desk is simple with a rounded end and the chairs are all the same. There's a sense of equality here and it's neutral space. It's not someone's office. Patients feel more comfortable here for their initial meeting as it is a non-clinical environment. Natural light comes into the room through semi-translucent glass panels allowing for privacy without being claustrophobic.

"Patients can become distressed at the consultation," Dr Pattni said. "As the 'practitioner of last resort', the specialist is often the one who is left to the task of informing the patient about the inevitable. Patients can become distressed when told that a tooth cannot be saved; it often forces them to address the unpleasant facts of the ageing process."

Dr Pattni diogs out a faded postcard and points at the Aboriginal desert dot painting: "I liked this and showed it to Anne Levitch; look at these colours, they are warm, comfortable and inviting. I asked if she could make my practice feel the same way".

The surgery has not dated and still feels comfortable and calm with its warm timber finish cabinetry frames by ochre walls.

Dr Pattni had originally asked for a palette of colours that included gold and had her colour sense jokingly questioned as a result. Four years later, it is clearer what she really meant: in a clear and conscious move, she has established a specialist practice that supports her to achieve her personal best.

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