By Bridget Burris

I know this heading just sounds weird, no doubt about it. Let us assume that your office has 12 team members and each person gets 3 weeks vacay per year. In addition, you (or your doctor if that’s not you) take 4 weeks off as well.  That means that if everyone is taking their vacation time independently you will be missing one or more team members for well over half the year! Wow, if you work most weeks shorthanded, no wonder you are stressed and cannot ever seem to keep up or catch.

When starting your practice or even buying an existing practice I would highly encourage you to write up your vacation policy in your employee manual stating that all paid vacation needs to be taken during non-patient days. YES, there is no doubt that you will meet with resistance from your current team, BUT explain to them that this is for the best of the entire team.  Ask them how much they love working without their TC or without their sterilizer? I believe the answer would be “maybe we should give this a try?” When implementing this change in an established office or when purchasing a practice, you may want honor vacation requests that have been handed in already. You may even want to give a future start date for this policy so that the team has time to adjust.  This is totally up to you and your management style but it doesn’t hurt to have a phase in period as long as you reach a point where the policy is firm and you no longer have to work shorthanded.

One of the ways we made this easier for all involved is that we scheduled the same 4 weeks off every year and the team always knew when they could take off without hurting their team members. Yes, people even scheduled their weddings around these dates (that is when you know your team has definitely bought into your office culture!)

  1. Spring time (not the standard spring break week in your area because that is a big production week)
  2. Fourth of July week
  3. First week back at school after summer
  4. The week of Christmas

This schedule gave staff an option of two weeks off with their families should they choose.  Our team could also take non-patient days off as paid vacation time but it was normally just 1-2 days at a time.

Nothing creates a smooth ortho office like an efficient schedule and a fully staffed clinic. This is definitely one of the ways to make it happen.