Interview: Q&A with an Office Manager
Name: Cecilia Forbes
Title: Practice Administrator
Location: Escondido, CA
Years Career Experience: 5-6 years as a Dental Assistant; 20+ years as an Office Manager
Background, Education and Training: Vocational dental assistant’s program; ongoing continuing education related to Office Manager’s position in my office.
AdminSecret: How did you get into the field and into your current position?
Cecilia Forbes: I was working in a medical group practice as Insurance Coordinator when an associate doctor left to open his own practice. I offered my help in setting up his new practice. He took me up on the offer 15 years ago and together we created and built the current practice I work at.
AS: What are your day-to-day job duties?
C: Ensuring the office runs smoothly; handling any problems with staff or patients that immediate supervisors need help with; daily IT support to staff & resolve software/hardware issues; review patient schedule in the future 2-3 days to head off any conflicts before they happen; be available for doctors’ projects/requests as they occur; back up to answer phones when needed.
AS: What other tasks do you commonly perform?
C:Accounts payable; oversee accounts receivable; process payroll; human resources duties- including hire, fire, annual evaluations, salary & bonus review, employee benefits including 401k, health ins, cafeteria plan vacation requests; maintain, enforce and create office policy per doctors requests; coordinate staff & doctor meetings throughout the year, negotiate insurance & vendor contracts at doctors request.
AS: What is it like supporting three oral surgeons? Furthermore, what is it like managing two supervisors who also oversee 20 other staff members?
C:Since there are only 2 days per week that all 3 doctors are in the office, I often have to repeat myself to each doctor when presenting a situation that needs their approval or denial. I use email whenever possible, but I generally have to follow up physically when I don’t receive a return emailed response. This is often time consuming as I have to find a time in between patients that I can speak to each doctor. With the staff I often go to the immediate supervisor for the surgery staff or business staff when I need a policy enforced or clarification on a current process. I then follow up with the supervisors if needed.
AS: What is a typical day like?
C:Some days are uneventful where there are no problems that need resolution and other days 3 or 4 new projects can occur in one day depending on the doctors desires.
AS: What are your position’s rewards?
C:I gain satisfaction in knowing my decisions are respected and I am trusted to make policy judgment calls as I see fit; respect from doctors and staff and flexibility in my own personal schedule.
AS: What are your position’s challenges?
C:Remaining neutral & fair in dealing with all staff members; getting multiple doctors to decide on anything!
AS: How do you handle these challenges?
C:Staying objective and keeping personal feelings about someone out of the decision; putting what’s best for the practice first; using communication skills obtained in continuing ed courses I’ve attended over the years when dealing with people; remaining as calm as possible when multiple problems occur.
AS: What is your advice to people looking to get into an office manager role?
C:Be willing to give up being ‘friends’ with everyone in the office, because at some point your subordinates will not like the decisions you make or are asked to carry out.
AS: What are the top characteristics or personality traits one should have to be a good fit for this job?
C:Integrity; honesty; dependability; emotional resilience; tactfulness; flexibility; be willing to do tasks you ask of others.
AS: What are the best skills or knowledge to have in order to be successful in this job?
C:Problem solving & decision making skills; able to prioritize; social & communication skills; professional knowledge; make coworkers feel valued; able to delegate & give direction successfully.
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