Thoughts on why we lose staff

Drs. Joel C. Small and Edwin McDonald write about how to keep your motivated and skilled team happy during times of staff shortages.

Drs. Joel C. Small and Edwin McDonald discuss the rewards of appreciating your team

We are currently experiencing an unprecedented shortage of clinical and administrative staff for healthcare practices. Without question, the loss of qualified staff has had a financial impact on doctors and their teams. Many studies have validated the negative financial impact of staff turnover for dental practices. We have personally seen studies indicating that the loss of a valuable staff person can create actual losses of production in the tens of thousands of dollars.

Many of our client doctors have expressed dismay and negative emotions over losing valuable staff. These are the recurring refrains that we are hearing from many clients.

  • “Why did my staff leave for an opportunity that paid a few dollars more?”
  • “What could I have done differently to maintain my staff?”
  • “I thought I treated my staff well, and they left anyway.”

The loss of staff is becoming a personal and highly emotional issue for doctors as they search for answers.

Little has been written regarding the negative emotional impact that staff shortages have created for doctors and their teams; and although this topic has received little attention, it has serious implications. Many clinicians and their teams are currently having to compensate for staff shortages by working longer hours and enduring more stress as they struggle to maintain production with fewer staff. Consequently, we are hearing increased reports of staff and doctor burnout as the hours and workload increase with no end in sight.

The easiest and most psychologically safe justification for staff loss is to assume that staff leaves for higher pay. We can rationalize a staff exodus by claiming that employees today have no loyalty and are financially driven. They will simply offer their services to the highest bidder. Our experience, however, would indicate that this is a false narrative.

What we are observing is that staff who feel listened to and are encouraged by their doctor to offer unfiltered feedback regarding their working environment with no fear of repercussions are less likely to leave their current job for one that offers a few dollars more in compensation. Simply put, if a person feels powerless and unable to offer input regarding negative aspects of their work environment, he/she will be more likely to leave regardless of their level of compensation.

The loss of highly motivated and skilled staff can have a devastating effect on a practice’s culture, especially if those departing are seen as team leaders, and those who remain are there just to collect their paycheck and have no interest in a transformational culture or being part of a peak-performing team.

Working in our offices is our staff’s choice. How we communicate with our staff during times of increased workload and stress is our choice and will likely determine whether our staff chooses to stay or seek employment elsewhere.

During periods of staff shortage, we must be sensitive to the increased demand and stress our staff is experiencing. In order to avoid any further crippling loss of staff, we at Line of Sight Coaching are suggesting that doctors spend more time checking in with their teams by listening more and providing much needed support during these stressful times. Just the simple fact that we show appreciation and concern for their well-being sends a powerful and positive message to our staff.

Another worthwhile suggestion is to schedule more frequent staff meetings during periods of stress to allow the staff to collaborate about ways to reduce stress and lighten the workload in the office. We are often surprised at how resourceful and creative our teams can be when given the opportunity to solve problems, and as a general rule, staff is more motivated to implement solution-oriented plans when they have had input into the solution.

In times of staff shortages, endodontists may want to reconsider the core values and guiding principles of the practice. Read “What do we value? A critical question and a values exercise,” at

Drs. Joel C. Small and Edwin (Mac) McDonald have a total of over 75 years of dental practice experience. Both doctors are trained and certified Executive Leadership Coaches. They have joined forces to create Line of Sight Coaching, a business dedicated to helping their fellow dentists discover a better and more enjoyable way to create and lead a highly productive clinical dental practice. Through their work, clients experience a better work/life balance, find more joy in their work, and develop a strong practice culture and brand that positively impact their bottom line. To receive their free ebook, 7 Surprising Steps to Grow Your Practice Through Leadership, go to


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