What’s it like to work at a federally qualified health center (FQHC)?
This is a question we are often asked, but it’s not easy to answer. In all honesty, it varies — and it depends on how well the health center is run.
If you were to visit many health centers, you would have a hard time differentiating them from a private practice. We often say to not judge a book by its cover: The outward appearance is not a true indicator of quality. Health centers are often typecast as outdated and providing only emergency care, but private practices can present this way as well.
But here’s our vision for our FHQC at Family First Health: To provide comprehensive health services to those seeking accessible, high-quality and affordable care.
Here are a few aspects that define our practice:
- Our practice is modern. All sites are less than 10 years old
- Our providers are dedicated. They work hard but are fairly compensated for their talent. The unanimous feedback that we get is how much our providers enjoy their autonomy in developing each patient’s treatment plan; the salary, benefits and paid vacations; and the camaraderie of the group practice environment.
- Our staff is professional. We hire well-trained staff that is supportive of the providers.
- Our patient panels are diverse. We have patients that represent all income and educational levels. Some come to us initially because we participate with “their plan,” and many come because they hear of the high-quality care we provide. Uniquely, some patients are attracted to us because we are a non-profit and they enjoy the relationship they can establish with our providers.
It is tricky to create the sense of autonomy with such a large group — our providers consist of seven dentists and three hygienists — but we have had success with this in leading by example and including providers in clinical decision making. Very little that we do as dental directors is based on our personal preference. Whether decisions affect scheduling, materials used or who works where and when, we work hard to be fair to our providers.
The compensation and benefits at our FQHC are a win-win for everyone, with a set-up that allows for our providers to stay fresh and focus on patient care —important because it keeps the conversations focused on quality! We all know that rest and relaxation is a must.
At Family First Health, we always like to say that the dental office should be a judgment-free zone. This is true not only for patients but also for staff, and it creates great camaraderie in our environments. Most providers in our group have less than four years experience, but a few of us have twice that — and then some. This creates a great opportunity for information sharing, and continuing education is mandatory. The new providers keep it fresh by introducing what is currently being taught in school and offering a new perspective. The more experienced clinicians are always willing to share those hard-learned lessons.
Our mix is great and rewarding, but each center is unique.
If you are interested in working at an FQHC, visit the center and ask a lot of questions to ensure it’s a good fit for you professionally and personally.