News | 09 June, 2021

Dental Assistant Recruitment in New Zealand

Lumino The Dentists is the largest oral healthcare provider in New Zealand. With over 100 practices nationwide, the organisation employs close to a 1000 people with approximately 400 dental assistants, not including dual scope roles of Receptionist / Dental Assistants. Lumino has an incredibly strong reputation with its patients for providing the highest level of dental care, and one of the reasons behind this is that the brand has industry leading clinicians at its forefront.

Dental assistants are the link between the patient and the clinician before, during and after treatments.

In a large organisation there will always be movement (people will change roles, get promoted, go on leave, or retire). Replacing a dental assistant has always been an important task as you must find the right person for the role. This has never been harder than now.

Lumino Mt Eden Lumino Day 2

What has happened to Dental Assistants in the job market?

In short, the COVID-19 pandemic happened. Despite New Zealand being in a better position than most of the world, we have felt and will continue feeling the effects of the pandemic for the foreseeable future. Closures of businesses, pay cuts, redundancies and layoffs were some of the most prominent movements.

This affected individuals in every industry - not just airlines or travel. When the entire country had to go into lockdown, it meant everything shut down. Practices and dental clinics were not operating,  unless for the essential or the absolute emergencies. 

During this lockdown period, one of the biggest changes in the dental space was seen in the temp workforce. Experienced individuals who had plenty of shifts and work before were suddenly left uncertain about their future. There was no job security as there was nowhere open to work. Temp staff also didn’t get subsided wages through their employer as they are technically not employed by a company.  Fortunately, New Zealand’s proactive approach resulted in the country coming out of lockdown and slowly going back to a relatively normal way of life. Stores were open again, people were shopping, and domestic travel had never been more popular.

In this aftermath, majority of the experienced dental assistant temp workforce decided to find more permanent roles. This included not only taking up opportunities at practices but also roles in different industries.

The team at Medacs are experts at what they do and are doing their best to respond to the last-minute temp demands nationwide.

According to Angelyn Cruz, from Medacs Healthcare, who are the largest healthcare recruitment agency in Asia Pacific: “The market is low. We have not taken up new dental assistants since the start of this year and most of temps we had have been placed into permanent roles”.

Another contributing factor was that experienced clinicians and medical professionals from overseas stopped coming into New Zealand and some even went back to their home countries to be with their families. With COVID-19 spreading paired with travel shutdowns and people not being able to work, staying in New Zealand was not a viable option.

There’s also a lot less movement in the general workforce. People saw that a global pandemic had changed the modern way of work forever. From companies going through 3 years of digital transformation in 3 weeks, to jobs that were sought after now being non-existent. People who were still employed throughout this period were greeted with the perspective of security. They are a lot more hesitant to change jobs or move away from what they were currently doing as they don’t know what would happen next.

Dental in 2021

Lumino, and the dental industry in general, is busier than ever. People are placing a priority on their oral health as part of their wellbeing. Practices are booked out for months and everyone is doing their best to respond to the patient demand.

With this growth, Lumino is bringing onboard more clinicians but there is also demand for reliable and experienced dental assistants to support. Practices are always on the lookout for experienced DA’s who can hit the ground running.

However, what do you do in a market where there are simply not as many experienced DA’s available?

You hire for potential, soft skills and train a person into the role. To become a dental assistant, there’s no previous qualification or training required. This really does work in benefit for roles, when there are not many people with previous experience available, as this means you can train the right person into your business. Someone who has the right attitude and transferable skills can be an asset. Practice managers have hired flight attendants, retail assistants, and sometimes even school leavers as they have seen potential in these individuals.

Donna Hewitt, Practice Manager, Lumino DentalOne

– “Originally, we were apprehensive, but we decided to give it a go and employ someone who had no previous dental industry experience. We thought she was a fit for our team and had transferable skills. We are extremely happy with our choice. I would even say that she has picked up her training better than someone who may have been in the industry for a short period of time. It comes down to picking the right person”

There are people in the market that are looking for jobs, but they may not have the exact background. Working with and around the resources available will be beneficial, especially in the long term. We have seen this work for Lumino practices, and this also allows for a wider talent pool to pick candidates from.

Being agile and adapting to the candidate market will ensure our continued success in building New Zealand’s best dental teams.