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Dental assistant training programs are successfully placing graduates in California dental practices. One recent graduate, Liz Martinez, is now employed by a dental practice in San Francisco and was featured in a recent New York Times article about individuals who changed careers as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Earl Capuli, DDS, who hired Martinez into his practice last November, said the pandemic exacerbated existing dental staffing challenges ― taking them to a level his practice hadn’t previously experienced.
“For the first time in my 34-year career, I lost three employees of more than 20 years within five months,” Dr. Capuli said. One retired and two resigned ― one of them for pandemic-related reasons. “Every dentist I know, both in Northern and Southern California, is experiencing similar situations with staffing shortages.”
Some relief came for Capuli when Martinez joined his practice. After losing her job in retail sales early in the pandemic, Martinez learned about and completed a dental assistant training program through the Jewish Vocational Service ― a nonprofit that CDA now partners with for its own Smile Crew CA dental assistant training program.
“Liz has been a wonderful asset and has acclimated well to our mature practice,” Capuli said. “I'm very excited to teach her new skills for various procedures that she did not learn from her dental assistant program.”
Martinez completed a three-month course that combined virtual and technical hands-on training. The training provides the technical and patient-care skills needed to launch a dental assisting career with the expectation that continued on-the-job training would occur.
“She is an eager learner and she's learning new things every day” Capuli added. “We need to accept that post-pandemic we will be competing for dental employees. We all have to think outside the box.”
Capuli was so pleased with Liz’s performance, skills and ability to learn that he has since hired one of Liz’s training program classmates on her recommendation. “A second JVS graduate is now part of our team,” Capuli said.
CDA’s pilot dental assisting training programs continue to be successful with a majority of the 108 participants who have already completed the program either being hired or pending hire.
The training programs launched in the San Francisco Bay Area in partnership with Jewish Vocational Service in April 2021 as part of CDA’s Smile Crew CA campaign. Later that year, they expanded into San Diego, and in February of this year the first training was conducted in the South Bay of Los Angeles. Next up: San Bernardino. That city’s first training cohort will begin this summer.
The Smile Crew CA pilot trainings teach participants dental terminology, HIPAA compliance, infection control protocols and other basic skills needed for a dental assisting career. They include an online self-led learning module plus in-person classroom lessons with material developed by CDA staff in collaboration with member-dentists.
Importantly, the trainings also allow participants to obtain the certifications required for dental assisting.
Participants who have completed the sessions have either been matched with and placed in open positions in California dental offices for on-the-job training or are completing their externships prior to placement.
Learn more about the expansion of CDA’s dental assistant training programs to address the statewide shortage of dental assistants, increase access to care and support dentists and dental team members in their service to the public.