|Mobile Dental Systems
c. What determines the hours of operation?
It is likely that your program will not operate on a 9 to 5 schedule. The daily schedule should be planned to meet the needs of the target population and/or the activities of the host site. It is important to have a designated key site contact person or liaison who can inform you of hours the site can accommodate the program, the normal schedule of activities, and special activities that may interfere with your program's access to patients. Try to schedule a site when there are the least potential interruptions for your program. Sites that demonstrate a disregard for the importance of your time should not be rescheduled, or your arrangement with them should be renegotiated.
The following are factors to consider as you plan for the hours of operation:
- When can the target population most easily access services (e.g., hours of the day, days of the week, months of the year?) For example, in some schools hours may vary because of limited busses and drivers, some may operate from 7:30 - 1:30, while the others may operate from 9:00 - 3:00. Some school systems operate 9 months a year while others operate year round. Vans that provide care to migrant farmworkers need to be available in the evenings. Each host site will have unique limiting factors. Standard hours of operation anticipated by the dental program staff may not be consistent with the needs of the host site. This can be important information to convey when recruiting staff. Schedules need to be negotiated with fair compromises made by the dental program and the agency.
- It is important to maximize the use of available van hours to generate income and to assure that your employees have a predictable and reliable number of hours to work each week. Factors such as vacation, testing times, special events, a key liaison calling in sick, in-service training sessions, accreditation visits, holidays, etc. can significantly affect schedules. Work with several agencies and have back-ups to assure program productivity during times when your primary target locations are unavailable. Careful planning and asking the right questions can minimize the potential for these productivity nightmares. One role of an agency coordinator or liaison is to review the schedule in advance and communicate unforeseen changes as soon as possible. You might request that a back-up person be designated in case the coordinator is ill or unable to be present on a scheduled van day.
- Meal times may need to be short and flexible to accommodate rotating lunches. If a school-based dental program only has access to the children 5 to 6 hours per day, staff should not plan on more than 30 minutes for lunch.
- Evening hours may create additional personal safety, recruitment and van security issues. Keep in mind that regulations or agency policies may require that staff who work evenings and weekends are entitled to a wage shift differential.
- Other factors such as traffic conditions and weather can significantly affect operations, but are unpredictable. That is why staff need to be flexible!
It is very important
to communicate closely with the site liaison so that changes in the schedule
or other issues that arise are known as soon as possible.