Adapt and move
In the 10 years since graduating, Jacqueline Clune has grown her first practice into one of the biggest in the south east
Just three years out of college, Jacqueline Clune was forced to reinvent her business in order to cope with the cuts to the Medical Card scheme that threatened the very existence of her fledgling practice.
A Trinity College Dublin graduate (2005), Jacqueline completed an additional voluntary training programme in Edinburgh and worked in private practice in Edinburgh and Dublin for two years. She then worked in a private practice in Swords in Dublin before setting up Callan Dental in her home town of Kilkenny in 2008. The previous owners of the Mill Street practice, which was only a year old when Jacqueline acquired it, had decided to relocate to the US.
The practice was a typical three-surgery premises and, as with many newly-established practices, the vast majority of the patients were being treated under the General Medical Card Scheme (GMS).
However, in 2009, the Medical Card scheme was cut significantly and, due to an over-reliance on the GMS scheme, Jacqueline realised she had to re-invent the practice to keep it viable and attract new private patients.
She said: “We had taken out new and sizeable business loans, so failure was not an option. So, we started a relentless pursuit for excellence in patient care. We firmly believed that if we delivered amazing patient care, private patients would come and the practice would survive. We started to do everything we could possibly think of for our patients; our aim was to give patients an experience, that made them want to come back and also recommend the practice to others.”
Jacqueline estimated that the practice lost 85 per cent of its revenue due to the cuts but, rather than lie down, they extended their opening hours and Jacqueline focused on advanced training in sedation and aesthetic dentistry, by completing two certificates at the Eastman Dental Institute.
As a result, Callan Dental was established as a centre of excellence for nervous patients and the word of mouth generated helped the practice to grow through 20ıı, despite the challenging economy. To meet the demand, additional surgeries were added to the premises and, by 20ı4, the now six-surgery practice was open 9am to 9pm Monday to Friday and 9am to 6pm on Saturdays. Jacqueline realised that they needed a much bigger premises to meet the continued demand.
When looking for their new building, Jacqueline was keen to identify what was important to their patients now but also to anticipate their needs into the future. Ease of accessibility and parking were key concerns and, in late 20ı3, she acquired a large four-bedroom detached house on a one-acre site on the outskirts of Kilkenny. The premises were easily located just off the main Kilkenny to Tipperary road and featured a significant amount of car parking.
Jacqueline and her mechanical engineer husband Eamon put together a design team featuring an architect, quality surveyor, mechanical, electrical and civil engineers, and their RPII consultant, and started the process of designing the new Callan Dental premises.
Jacqueline said: “Our vision was to create a high-end practice that was more akin to a hotel vibe than a traditional dental practice. We focused on the patient’s journey as they came through the practice. We considered each of the patients’ senses, the use of natural light, soft calming music through centrally control ceiling mounted speakers, diffusers delivering aromatherapy, soft and inviting furnishings and the use of curved lines and open spaces to invite the patient to flow freely throughout the premises.
“We also designed the building from a highly functional perspective, ensuring there was ample space for storage and locating the lab and plant room – which can be noisy – away from the patient areas. The practice was designed in accordance with all the latest HSE guidelines. We also identified many other UK NHS guidelines and designed these into the practice in anticipation of them becoming requirements in Ireland.”
The new practice has eight surgeries – four upstairs and four downstairs, all stocked with materials and instruments from DMI, who also supplied one new chair. There are two waiting rooms and two CCSD rooms – one for each floor. Sedation is an important part of the practice and RA Medical Services installed the copper piping and equipment to allow nitrous oxide to be delivered in all the surgeries. Air conditioning was also installed throughout the building too so it was comfortable for staff and patients.
Jacqueline explained that one of the most challenging parts of the whole project was the change over from the old building to the new building. She said: “We were moving over some existing dental chairs, X-ray machines, servers and dental plant machinery, so timing and delivery of the project was very important. We had allocated a four-day window where we switched over from the old practice to the new one so we had to make sure that the build of the new premises was completed exactly on time.”
As part of the plan for the move, two surgeries in the new practice were fully functional, with computers and phone system installed a week before the move, so that constant emergency cover could be provided throughout the four-day shutdown. Jacqueline said: “On the fourth day of the move all the dental equipment had been moved and was fully installed and commissioned in the brand new facility. By Friday morning, all surgeries were fully operational and patients were treated without any disruption to the service.
“The whole move and planning went extremely well, there were no hitches. I was extremely happy with the job the builder did, and how the move was managed. The building work started in the summer of 20ı4 and we moved into the new 375sqm, eight-surgery practice in July 20ı5.”
The all-female Callan Dental team is now 30 strong and made up of seven dentists, five hygienists and a what Jacqueline describes as a “highly-motivated and skilled nurse and reception team”. A practice manager and assistant practice manager oversee day-to-day operations.
Jacqueline said: “The ethos of the practice is about providing the very highest levels of patient care at all times. This philosophy is central to how the practice is managed and it is as a result of that dedication to patient care that the practice has grown so strongly. We have been fortunate enough to have won several awards for customer care and service delivery.
“In addition, there is a very strong commitment to continued professional development at the practice. Several of the dentists have completed additional postgraduate certifications and this enables them to deliver treatments to the highest standards and in accordance with the latest technologies and processes.”
Jacqueline revealed that despite the high-end look and feel of the new practice, all the cabinetry was sourced from IKEA as they “proved to be very high quality and very cost effective. They have a great design facility and the inserts for the drawers are very suitable for dentistry”.
She also saved a special mention to the Bank of Ireland in Kilkenny “who backed me all the way throughout the design and build phase and I really appreciate their continued support”.
After a year in the new building, Jacqueline said that she couldn’t be happier with the new premises and that the future is looking very bright. She said: “The new practice has been a real hit with patients. Due to continued demand we have hired two additional associate dentists this year.
“My advice to any dentists looking to set up their own practice is to take your time during the design and planning stage. Talk through your plans and designs with as many people as you can to get different ideas and perspectives. Try to hone in on what is important to your patients now and anticipate what will be important to them into the future and build that into your plan. And, once you have finalised your plan, stick to it, don’t make changes during the build phase or it could prove costly.”