Professional development (PD) plays a significant role in expanding knowledge, staying current with innovations, and lifting the competence of individuals in any career pursuit. PD is particularly essential in the field of health to maintain and improve medical practice standards across the sector while sustaining a quality workforce.

As highlighted in a Business News Insider article, encouraging employees to seek PD once employed is part of a healthy business process. “[PD] controls an employee’s readiness for contributing to a company in new ways, whether the company adopts a new strategy, expands or needs change,” adds Steve Hawter, vice president of learning and development at The Learning Experience.

In contrast, according to GoBankingRates, high turnover rates that go beyond the common 18% threshold can be detrimental to business as the cost of replacing an employee can fluctuate anywhere between 33% to 200% of that employee’s salary.

Todd Brook, managing director of the employee engagement platform Engagement Multiplier, further mentions that 67% of costs are “soft costs” in project delays added to the internal resources used in recruiting, hiring, and training new employees.

By many accounts, the sector has warned of impending challenges to the talent vacuum in healthcare.

Healthcare Specialist Resources

The National Library of Medicine is using a methodology for making projections developed by the Health Resources and Services Administration on future shortages of health specialists. Edward Salsberg, Senior Director of the Center for Workforce Studies at the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), and his colleagues project that by 2025 there will be a shortage of between 124,000 and 160,000 full-time physicians. While future supply and demand scenarios were examined, including the expansion of graduate medical education (GME) training, the study predicts supply falling short of demands. “We could have a terrible crisis,” adds Salsberg.

Since the pandemic, healthcare has experienced stressors and demands that have led to attrition issues and efforts to increase the pool of professionals. According to a Mckinsey report, over 30% of nurses contemplate leaving direct patient care. As a result, it is causing an increased need to not only fill vacancies but also ensure the proper training of professional staff.

The healthcare professional void is being experienced across the sector, in all forms of patient care, from medical offices to dentistry. As demands inside the dental profession continue to rise, according to Marquette University and UCLA-trained professional Dr. Giri Palani, it has affected results in the field. Part of the problem is a lack of training in implants. Dating back to as early as 2004, fixing botched dental work has seen a 30% to 40% increase and represents a great deal of his current work.

Palani believes it’s a problem that could be avoided through continued education. “Learning on this job never stops, no matter how skilled you are,” says Palani. If dental professionals would just commit to rigorous and continuous learning and know their limits, it would save patients a lot of time, pain, and money.”

Continuous Learning

Michael S. Reddy, DMD, and dean of UCSF School of Dentistry, recently prothesized the advantages of lifelong learning and exploration as a path forward in the profession. “As a leading academic health institution, how can we transition from scalable efficiency to scalable learning to encourage innovative thinking at a whole new level?’ he asks. “If instead of focusing on executing routine tasks, we inspired everyone to discover the ‘passion of the explorer,’ I can only imagine how much we could advance together.”

Institutions like the University of Minnesota, School of Dentistry are instituting programs to encourage continued growth and success as educators, clinicians, and researchers. The focus is on in-depth learning and biostatistics for mid-career health professionals. “It is important to recognize areas we can improve upon and be willing to continue learning. Lifelong learning is the cornerstone of the dental hygiene profession,” says Yvette Reibel, EdD, RDH, and University of Minnesota clinical associate professor and clinical director in the Division of Dental Hygiene.

Active Participation

Active professionals such as Dr. Palani, who focus daily on cosmetic dentistry and the repair of incorrect work, are especially keen on continued learning. “Even the top dentists in the industry understand they don’t know everything,” says Palani. “Cosmetic dentistry is a niche of lifetime learning. New technologies, research, and procedures come out regularly, and we must keep our fingers on the pulse of the industry.”

For those like Palani, the learning starts early and grows from there. ”As a young professional, I shadowed some of the best oral surgeons, cosmetic surgeons, and general dentists in Beverly Hills, New York City, and worldwide,” he says.

“I would go to their offices and glean from their wisdom and experience. This was during my time as Chief Resident in UCLA’s Advanced Education in General Dentistry program. And before that, I learned from the top surgeons at the Hospital Dentistry Program of Cedars-Sinai Hospital.”

Humility and hunger to absorb knowledge appear to be essential factors in the process. “Constant learning is the key, but first, there’s the learning, and then the practice, not the other way around,” says Palani. “When learning, be sure you can correct botched dentistry work. The demand for dental repair work is crazy, and it’s something any dentist should understand.”

Growing Trend

A trend slowly gaining in popularity is the in-house lab and the hiring of dental technicians as part of the process. For those in the profession, the in-house laboratory boosts knowledgebase requirements for all involved, including the support team and professionals.

“In the U.S., historically, only around 1% of dental offices have their own in-house dental lab. Our in-house lab means we can design and manufacture the entire dental prostheses for our clients with a high level of control over the process,” says Palani. “With an in-house lab, there is total control of the design, quality, and aesthetics, which leads to better patient outcomes. In addition, we stay abreast of the techniques and technologies which have helped us successfully treat many patients who were told they weren’t good candidates for dental implants.”

As attrition and fill-in measures are underway in the health profession, the need for more education appears key to maintaining standards and practices that ultimately affect patient care. Pinpointing the effects found in the cosmetic dental industry represents a microcosm facing the field of healthcare experiencing new demands.

Updated knowledge acquisition to meet just-in-time patient needs remains key to patient and research outcomes, but continuous learning for all workers across and inside healthcare systems appears equally necessary.

According to Harvard’s continuing education division, professional development can be instrumental in growing a stronger team. The Harvard report further indicates Clear Company stats suggesting 94% of employees would consider staying longer if professional development opportunities were made more available. The longevity of those with knowledge remaining inside professions is an added element to the equation.

For certain career professionals, constant learning holds the key to better patient care and an enthusiasm that keeps the professional fire burning. “Cosmetic dentistry is a science, and like any other science, it never reaches a final state of wisdom,” expresses San Francisco-based Dr. Jörg-Peter Rabanus.

Interviews have been edited and condensed for clarity.


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