What Dental Practices Should Consider Before Hiring an Intern

There were about 200,419 active dentists in the United States in 2019, and many new people are looking to join this lucrative field. If you have a lot that needs to be done around your dental practice but you’re short on employees, consider hiring an intern. Many sponsoring organizations and students recognize the real benefits of internship programs. They offer students an opportunity to get familiar with the real-world work environment. These programs also benefit dental practices in that interns may offer new perspectives and ideas, reduce your employees’ workload while at the same time enhancing their leadership skills, and if they prove to be valuable, they may eventually become full-time employees. However, there are things you need to consider before hiring an intern. These are:

1. You May Need to Offer Compensation

The prospect of having an unpaid intern on your team can be great. However, unless they pass the primary beneficiary test, you’ll still have to pay them. A primary beneficiary test is used to establish whether the practice or the intern is the internship’s primary beneficiary. If an intern fails the primary beneficiary test, you must pay them the federal minimum wage at the very least, and if they work for more than 40 hours in a workweek, you may also be required to pay them overtime. If you decide to hire an intern, make sure to equip yourself with appropriate documentation and software like electronic time tracking so you can accurately record their time.

It’s important to note that there are some inherent risks to you as an employer when offering unpaid internships. For example, an intern may decide to file a Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) claim. Offering minimum wage compensation reduces the likelihood of needing to defend your business against this type of claim.

2. An Intern Can Help With Projects You’re Struggling With

A student who applies for an internship under your practice hopes to achieve something that’ll look good on their resume or in upcoming interviews. Assign them tasks that will improve the efficiency, output, and overall success of your organization. Just be careful not to violate The Fair Labor Standards Act.

3. An Intern Can Be a Valuable Brand Advocate

Whether you intend to or not, hiring an intern promotes your business. Your interns will likely share their experience with peers, acquaintances, and family members if you’re a great internship mentor and supervisor, effectively serving as a free advertisement for your business. However, the reverse could also apply, especially if they feel taken advantage of.

4. Think About Your Primary Motivation

Knowing why you want to hire an intern allows you to better specify the role and vet candidates based on their primary motivation for applying. Knowing why an applicant wants to join your team is just as important as their work ethic and skill set. Ask them why they’re interested in the internship as the first or second question of the interview. From their answer, you’ll know whether they’re interested in gaining the experience of running a practice, learning more about the industry, or just want to collect a paycheck.

Consider a Five- to Six-Month Internship

Every intern needs some time to fit in, learn the company culture, and become accustomed to their tasks. Factor this into their onboarding schedule as early on as possible. An internship that runs for a few months, like five to six months, is more beneficial to both parties than one spanning three to four weeks. It allows the intern to fully understand their role and gives you valuable insight into the intern, so you can assess their potential should you decide to hire them as full-time employees in the future.

According to the World Health Organization, around 3.5 billion people have oral diseases. This means that you’ll likely never lack business. You may actually be overwhelmed by the line of clients seeking your services. Hiring an intern can offer a short-term or even long-term solution to your human resource capacity gaps, but make sure they pass the litmus test enumerated above.