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Being A Maternity Leave Dentist (A Freelance Dentist)

Discover the unique experience of being a maternity leave dentist as a freelance practitioner. Explore insights, challenges, and strategies for balancing parenthood with dental practice.

By Dr. Jolene Lai

It is an age-old problem: a female dentist in private practice going on maternity leave, fretting about her patients and worrying about her lack of income.

Preparations would have been made for our confinement. Maybe we will be heading to a confinement center, or we would hire a confinement lady to tend to our postpartum needs. How about a maternity leave dentist who could cover our schedule while we are away for two to three months?

 It would be like being a locum, except you would be there for two to three months at a stretch. If the confinement lady can fill up her schedule for the year, wouldn’t you be able to do the same as a maternity leave dentist? You can choose your own timing and block out a chunk of the calendar between jobs for some work-life balance.

Young dentists who have left government service and have not secured a spot in private practice could do this while they seek jobs. Being at various clinics for two months at a time would quickly improve their confidence in clinical skills.

For those who have worked a few years in private practice and are starting to feel burned out, such a role may be beneficial. Having the ability to take a full month off work for traveling or family commitments without worrying about their work schedule would mean the world to some. With careful planning, being a maternity dentist would be beneficial for those who enjoy bread and butter dentistry. This category of dentists would make great full-time maternity leave dentists, as they would be experienced enough without requiring much hand-holding and hopefully reliable enough to do this long-term.

After being a maternity leave dentist for a while, clinic owners would share your contact information with other clinic owners going on maternity leave. Your schedule could be filled up in no time. The willingness to travel around the country would be a real plus point.

Retired dentists may also benefit from this setup. Retired dentists typically have excellent patient management skills, which is an important skill set compared to hiring a younger person.

Dentists who have left their previous associateship and are waiting for their dental clinic to complete renovation would definitely appreciate such a role.

As a dentist going on maternity leave, you would typically have some concerns about the locum who will cover your entire schedule.

If you’re worried about patients’ data, fret not. If another dentist can steal your clinic’s data and poach them, it means you were going to lose those patients anyway.

If you’re worried about the commitment of the maternity leave dentist, perhaps a deposit of 20% of the basic pay for the entire duration to secure their time would be reasonable. Always prepare a contract. If the maternity leave dentist goes missing, does not respond, or forfeits the deal, he or she has more to lose than you in terms of reputation. That being said, a 2-month notice of pulling out of an agreement seems fair. Anything less than that would be very disappointing.

With the ability for maternity dentists to plan a schedule in advance, an APC can be applied for in good time. Even if you are not going to be a permanent dentist at that location, it is a must to have a valid APC for that particular address.

Not all procedures would be suited for a maternity leave dentist to take over. Orthodontic treatment is one such example as it involves multiple appointments over an average of two years. Work out some ground rules for patient management when it comes to multiple-visit cases. Bread and butter dentistry would be good enough.

For those who are keen to embark on being a freelance dentist, perhaps try to block out the next three to four months to see if this arrangement makes sense for you. One major downside of being a freelance dentist is the inability to learn the management of complex cases due to the short working period. Always ensure that you are covered with good indemnity insurance, even if you are only there for a short time.

We are blessed to be in a profession where we can be as busy as we wish to be and as free as we need to be. Work when you want and take a break when you don’t wish to work. Being a maternity leave dentist would solve a very pressing pain point in the dental community. This particular job category certainly carries a lot of potential.

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