Advice to orthodontic residents as they navigate the COVID-19 crisis

By Shannon Patterson, CPR, CMSR

No one could have predicted what has happened in the world in the last 90 days, especially in the orthodontic world. Most offices were experiencing year-over-year growth spurred by advanced treatment technologies and a consumer push for cosmetic dentistry. Overnight we witnessed orthodontic offices across the country shut-down due to ADA regulations and recommendations. Approximately 9,000 orthodontists, their employees and over 1,000 orthodontic residents are all on pause. Orthodontists who own offices have had to make heart wrenching decisions and tackle mounds of paperwork to apply for the stimulus loan package. Employed orthodontic associates are out of work not knowing if they will receive unemployment or will be rehired at a reduced schedule. Final year residents who probably had a handful of potential opportunities are experiencing radio silence on their phones.  

There is a lot of uncertainty in the world, and as we watch media coverage of this horrific virus taking lives it might feel selfish to be worrying about your potential career. However, the reality is you still need to find a job and going dormant during this period may not the best scenario for job seekers. I hope this article will provide job seekers some guidance during this unprecedented time.  

While we have no idea what potential job opportunities will be available in the future, we do know everyone is in the same boat. No one has ever been in a crisis like this before; however, we have witnessed orthodontists losing their practices to hurricanes, fires and floods. And guess what? They do bounce back! Right now, there is no timeline for when offices will be allowed to practice again, but once orthodontists know this date with more certainty, they can accurately predict when things will get back to normal again. It is important during this crisis not to assume practices and DSOs will not hire in the near future. Now is actually a great time to send out your CV because, now more than ever, employers have plenty of time to review and talk to you.  

Many of you had networking events planned for the AAO meeting and, unfortunately, you will not get to make your first impression in person. That will most likely happen on a video format like Zoom. Be prepared and understand this may not be as fluid as a personal meeting, so do some homework before jumping on a call. In addition to reviewing a potential employer’s practice website, look at their social media posts, how are they communicating with patients? Review the state dental board website and have an idea of when the state’s mandate may be lifted.  

We have had the opportunity to speak with potential private practice employers as well as DSOs during the last few weeks and most have shared that they plan on using this time to build a pipeline for future opportunities. They are starting to see that residents aren’t the only folks looking right now. There are some associates who are currently furloughed exploring other options for their future. So do not wait to apply for positions or delay sending out your CV. 

Watch Now: Check out our video interview with Shannon Patterson where she talks in depth about the residents’ experience with COVID-19

If you have extra time due to your reduced course schedule, take this time to review social media groups and see how practices are adapting with patient care such as virtual exams. This may or may not be something you learned in residency, but many orthodontic Facebook groups have shared techniques and it’s a great opportunity for you to learn and understand this skill set. There are a ton of resources and daily webinars addressing patient care on these social groups. Use this time wisely and tune in. 

If you haven’t created a spectacular CV, now is the time to do so. Change your lenses and think like a potential employer who is reviewing your CV. Ask yourself what will this candidate bring to my practice? Why should I pick up the phone and talk to him or her? It is important to showcase your clinical abilities, but equally important to share your personality and, most of all, your adaptability for change in this unpredictable time. After all, you are the generation with the most experience connecting virtually; let your potential employer know you are ready for the challenge!  

Lastly be patient, COVID19 will pass and practices will start hiring again. As a firm, we have never seen an event that has impacted the industry with such unpredictability. If you are looking for a job, have faith and keep networking. Our leaders are working diligently in hopes our nation will not fall into a great recession and companies will recover quickly. The good news is these companies will need employees and those employees will start spending again and our economy will recover. OP  

Shannon Patterson, CPR, CMSR, Certified Kolbe Consultant, is a recruitment leader in the orthodontic industry, specializing in placement and retention of doctors by engaging in a proactive recruitment strategy. Shannon joined Bentson Copple & Associates LLC in 2011 and became a partner in the firm in 2018. She has earned certifications in High Impact Recruiting (CPR) and Certified Medical Staff Recruiting (CMSR), and is a Certified Kolbe Consultant and member of the American Academy of Medical Management (AAMM).  Shannon is a frequent guest lecturer at leading industry meetings and orthodontic residency programs, and contributes to numerous orthodontic journals.