Do You Really Need a Dental Practice Design Firm to Design Your Dental Practice?

Construction Gets Sticky When Design Company Closes Its Doors

Regular readers already know the tale of Machias Dental and have been following the progress of the building in my weekly updates:

Designing a new dental facility is no small architectural task. The Sparagas contracted with T.H.e. Design, one of the largest dental practice design firms in the US. They worked closely with the Sparagas to develop complete plans for the new building.

Machias Dental blueprints
Plans for the new Machias Dental
[click to enlarge]

And then the trouble started! Dr. Sparaga received noticed that T.H.e. Design was closing its doors. (Ouch!)

Luckily, the final plans had been completed months before. Project records were in the hands of various former employees of the deign company. Fortunately, all were willing to continue working with the Sparagas on an individual basis.

But the doctor knew he’d need more help than that, so he pursued local design firms to help finish the inside of the building. It fell to Kathy Sparaga, a local architect, and the couple’s general contractor to work through the myriad of problems inherent in a project of this scope. Fortunately, they have managed to keep the project on schedule.

Building Machias Dental
Step 8: Work continues…
[click to enlarge]

Though it’s the dead of winter in northern New England, hammers continue to fly on the new dental facility. The exterior of the building is close to complete, and the interior rooms are taking shape. By this spring, Dr. Sparaga hopes to have an associate, a completed building, and an ever-expanding patient list.

Stay tuned next week to take a look inside the brand-new building!

Dental Practice Design Is Harder Than It Looks

Machias Dental Continues Construction of New Facility

We’ve been covering the story of Dr James Sparaga, a dentist in the middle of building a spacious new facility for his practice.

Building Machias Dental
The team checks out their new home
[click to enlarge]

Here are the steps the doctor has already taken:

The work focus is shifting from the exterior of the building to the interior (the fun part of the building!). The Sparagas had found a millwork subcontractor to build the desk, cabinets and shelving. Unfortunately, he backed out just as the job was about to start. Small-town rumors flew about the reasons why, but all that Jim and Kathy Sparaga cared about was getting their woodwork done. They ended up ordering cabinetry from both Adec and a kitchen cabinet company, hiring a shelving company, and finding a carpenter to handle the reception desk and fine finish.

Building Machias Dental
The interior takes shape
[click to enlarge]

They didn’t want to skimp on the interior design, but the nearest designer was some 90 miles away. They decided to go with T.H.e. Design, thinking that a dental design company would be best equipped to verify and order wall covering, carpet, tile flooring and furniture, etc. But then, as previously mentioned, T.H.e. went out of business.

So now the search was on for an interior designer. It just so happened that the Sparagas were looking to make some adjustments to their home, so they called a residential design firm. Impressed with their service and out of sheer desperation, they asked if the design firm might be interested in a dental office project.

And what do you know? It was the design company’s slow season, and they were more than happy to take on the dental project. They have turned out to be the answer to the Sparagas’ dreams. They are re-sourcing all the needed items and improving upon the original selections.

Next it was time to select the dental equipment for the new facility. Like so many dentists, Dr. Sparaga was understandably enthusiastic about getting new toys.

But of course nothing is ever as easy as it seems… Check back next week to see what sort of snafus the doctor encounters in his search for dental equipment!

Dentist Faces Unexpected Challenges in Hiring Dental Hygienists

How Do You Attract Practitioners to Under-Served Areas?

Watch the Video

Luring hygienists to a practice in rural Maine has proved challenging. Though there’s been a lot of interest in the ads they’ve posted, very few candidates are actually interested in the “downeast lifestyle” that Machias, Maine, offers.

Recruiting Hygienists from Across the StateBuilding Machias Dental

So the Sparagas decided to try another hygienist recruitment strategy – and it’s proven to be surprisingly controversial. For $35, the State Bureau of Records gave them a mailing list of all licensed health care providers in the state of Maine.

Interestingly, roughly a third of the listed RDHs used their current office as their personal mailing address. As a result, the Sparagas received a few irate letters from dentists questioning the moral and ethical appropriateness of soliciting their hygienists. As one doctor wrote,

I feel compelled to write you today with a serious concern we have regarding a mailing each of our hygienists received from you (at our office address no less!) inviting them to join your team at Machias Dental.

Our reaction to this solicitation initially was to laugh at it, though as I thought more about it, my feelings went from amusement to outrage to bewilderment. This is not the way we “do things” in Maine, so where was this coming from? I know your reputation and the reputation of your practice is outstanding, so I’m confused as to why this type of mailing would make its way to our office. I can only assume this was an oversight mistake on your part. I suppose this can happen. But did hygienists at other dental offices in the state also receive this letter? I certainly hope not!

Please either respond to this email or call me to discuss this matter further. I would like to put my mind at ease that the collegial culture Maine dentists have traditionally enjoyed is not on the decline! I look forward to hearing from you soon.

The Doctor Defends His Strategy

Dr. Sparaga’s response was both diplomatic and sympathetic.

Thank you for your concerns about our recent mailing to all the hygienists in the state in our quest for a new hire. I’m sorry if you have taken this personally and it has offended you.

As we all know, it is most difficult to attract qualified personnel to live here, and we’ve resorted to a mass mailing to Maine RDH’s seeking someone looking for a change not only in jobs, but in lifestyle. With a practice in an underserved rural area, we do not have the luxury of putting an ad in the local paper, hoping to attract a provider, someone looking for a change.

The state considers the lists of practitioners, medical and dental, as public information, rather than personal. With the dental manpower shortage in the rural areas, the state bureau of records is most willing to give out the list of all their medical and dental personnel especially if it helps remedy the maldistribution of manpower toward these areas. I would suppose when considering the current access to care issue, it might be considered unethical to restrict such information. For whatever reason, it would appear that many of the RDH’s listed their dental office of employ as their contact address, instead of their personal residence. We could not tell whether these addresses were of their home or office. And of course, I assume that these healthcare professionals will judge for themselves whether our offer of new horizons is offensive to them. I would propose that the offer might mean more to them than a concern for collegiality amongst us dentists.

Thank you for understanding that a mass mailing was the only way we could reach out to Maine’s RDH’s and supply more healthcare manpower to this underserved area.

But in addition to the angry letters, they also received several excellent replies from remarkable candidates. The Sparagas are happily interviewing those RDHs now.

Jim Du Molin’s Two Cents

I am squarely on Dr. Sparaga’s side. There’s nothing wrong with a doctor who is looking to hire hygienist taking a state mailing list and sending out a letter. It is clear to me that there are no ethical issues here. The state mailing list is public information, and I’m not going to fault Dr. Sparaga for using all the resources available to him.

Registered dental hygienists are a scare resource. Given the realities of supply and demand, that means there will be competition for RDHs. If you’re a dentist and you need a hygienists, you will do whatever you can and pay whatever you need to in order to find a hygienist. It’s easier for dentists to raise their prices than function without a hygienist.

In addition, there are lots of reasons why RDHs (or anyone) might switch jobs. No matter how great a job is, sometimes people need a change of scenery. People are going to do what’s in their own self-interest. If you want loyalty, get a dog!

So to the doctor who complained, I would say, “If you’re taking care of your hygienists, then you have nothing to worry about.”

What do you think? Post your comments!

Video Editorial: The Trouble with Hiring Hygienists

Dentist Ruffles Feathers with Mailing List Strategy

Dr. Jim Sparaga is constructing a new dental facility in rural Maine. He’s going to need some dental hygienists for his expanded practice, but finding them has proven more difficult than expected. He came up with a great recruiting strategy – but a few Maine dentists were less than thrilled.

Learn more by watching the video below. Or, if you prefer the written word, you can read Jim’s editorial about the difficulty of recruiting dental hygienists.

Dental Practice Facility Almost Ready for New Patients

Move-in Date Looms for Machias Dental

Building Machias Dental
Machias Dental’s new facility
[click to enlarge]

It’s full speed ahead for Jim and Kathy Sparaga as they put the finishing touches on their brand-new dental practice facility in Machias, Maine.

At times, there are ten men working on the building’s interior at once. The basement is a maze of pipes and wires. The sheetrocking stormtroopers are making everyone nervous; will they close up the walls before the equipment gets installed? Inevitably, there will be a number of wall panels coming off to get the details installed before the process is over. Despite a well-reputed dental architectural firm and a good local architect, there have been many omissions and undiscovered conflicts of materials and placements.

Building Machias Dental
Making sense of 33,800 feet of cable
[click to enlarge]

“It takes 4 hours every day for Kathy to unravel the issues and do the research required by the general contractor,” sighs Jim. “I just do the dentistry.”

The move-in date looms. Several new hires are joining the practice. Their new associate is about to arrive. They’re wrestling with wallpaper and furniture. Their resident computer whiz is connecting 33,800 feet of cable. (Yes, that’s over six miles of cable.) And the Sparagas couldn’t be more excited.

Catch up on the dental practice construction story in Machias, Maine, and check back for further updates.


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