Managing PTO at Your Dental Clinic

Posted by Ben on Aug 15, 2021

Scheduling employee vacation days when you’re part of a small dental clinic can be a nightmare. Even though you probably want to give your team a generous, flexible PTO policy so they can take a vacation now and then, the logistical challenges can make it hard.

In this article, we’re going to run through what you need to do in the short-term to ensure easy PTO tracking and management for the future of your dental clinic, including:

  • Developing an effective PTO Policy for your dental clinic
  • Calculating & tracking PTO & Vacation Day accrual
  • Avoiding chaos when employees go on vacation!

Best PTO Policies for Dental Clinics

When developing your PTO (Paid Time Off) Policy, ask yourself what is the purpose of providing PTO to your employees?

In general, our dental clients build policies that:

  • Allows employees to take time off when they’re sick (to avoid spreading illness to the rest of the team and patients)
  • Give staff time to relax and prevent burnout
  • Attract and retain the best doctors/dental hygienists/nurses/receptionists
  • Ensures the clinic is operating efficiently.

The main challenge is deciding on your PTO accrual method and your PTO approval process.

PTO Accrual Method for Dental Clinics

You can allow employees to gradually accrue sick days and vacation days daily or monthly, give them a set amount per year or make it unlimited depending on your opinion.

Gradual accrual is often the most sensible, but can be a little tricky to calculate manually, so most clinics who opt for this method will use PTO Tracking Software like Bindle, or maybe even a PTO accrual spreadsheet like this free one we’ve put together.

Set quantities of PTO can be simpler to manage, but there are challenges: do you allocate PTO on the employee’s start date or a set date for all employees? Will you just be encouraging everyone to take vacations as soon as they receive their PTO (which could be a good strategic choice in some cases to minimise PTO liability)?

Unlimited vacation days can be particularly problematic for dental clinics as it can seriously impact your profitability and team management to have fewer billable hours available. On the other hand, unlimited sick days is much more feasible, as you really don’t want staff coming in to work sick because they’re out of sick days!

PTO Approval Process for Dental Clinics

To ensure you don’t have everyone on vacation at the same time, or doctors working with no nurses on hand to assist (or vice versa), there are a few terms you’ll likely want to include in your PTO Policy:

  1. Groups who can go on vacation at the same time. If you have teams of specialists who regularly work together, it may make sense to get them to co-ordinate vacations longer than a day (or whatever makes the most sense) together.
  2. Roles that can’t be on vacation at the same time. If you’ve got 2 receptionists, it’s going to be chaos if they both go on vacation at the same time! It can therefore make sense to specify that they can’t go on vacation at the same time (unless the clinic is closed). That is, unless you have a…
  3. Process for organising temp workers or sharing of responsibilities. If your dental clinic has staff who are multi-skilled (for example, if your receptionists are all dental nurses, or your specialists can also perform general practice if needed) you can specify a way for these responsibilities to be shared when booking vacations. Alternatively, you can specify a process for organising temp staff to cover shifts as needed.
  4. Approval process, timeframes and tracking. Ultimately someone is going to be responsible for making sure that your policy is followed. It could be yourself, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be. Set a process where PTO is requested, approved and communicated to staff consistently and you’ll save yourself a lot of headaches in the future.

If you still don’t know where to start with your PTO Policy, you can download our free PTO Policy Template as a baseline and adapt it to your needs.

Better yet, we also have a free PTO Policy Generator which will ask you some questions to help build you a custom PTO policy for your dental clinic.

How to Prevent Vacations Disruption in Your Clinic

If you’ve done all of the above, you’ll have a solid PTO policy (that everyone is sticking to). That will prevent a large portion of the headaches most dental clinics suffer when trying to manage vacation and sick days.

There are, however, are few other little things you can do to make your dental clinic run a lot smoother when it comes to time off.

  1. Keep all PTO bookings and balances accurate in a central location. You can use dedicated PTO Tracking Software like Bindle or a manual spreadsheet, but the key is regularly updating it and storing all data in ONE place to avoid confusion.
  2. Make a shared PTO calendar for your team. That way you’ll be able to who’s on vacation and when to prevent requests that breach your PTO policy. Bindle automatically syncs with Google, Apple and Outlook calendar, but if you’re doing things manually, include “updating the calendar” in the PTO booking process.
  3. Give employees direct access to their PTO balance. To avoid constant questions of “how much PTO can I take?”, it’s worth giving employees access to that information themselves. Bindle allows employees to log in at any time to check their PTO balance (or make a booking), but if you’re using a spreadsheet or other document, you can manually setup employee read-access to their data. Just make sure they can’t also see other employees’ balances as that’s generally considered private information.

And lastly, if you want to automate all of your PTO & Vacation tracking, you’re more than welcome to try Bindle free for 30 days here (beyond that, Bindle’s priced at $1.50 per user, per month).

If you still have any burning PTO questions, feel free to get in touch with us here - we’re always happy to recommend some common best practices (whether that be through software or otherwise).

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