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April 1, 2021

A Communication Structure to Get in the Loop & Aligned! Part 1

 

I think George Bernard Shaw said it best when he said, “The greatest problem with communication is the illusion that it has been accomplished!” I find that to be the case in many dental practices today. More relationships are destroyed because of poor communication than for any other reason.

I have the privilege of working with dental teams nationwide facilitating my Rise & Shine Culture Camps. I consistently observe concerns with the communication structure in dental practices. What I mean by communication structure is the actual flow of communication. It is what is necessary to keep everyone in the loop and on the same page working together for the greater good of the patients, practice, and team!

An effective communication structure starts with establishing a clear flow for communication and clarifying expectations to the team.

  • Who to go to or does it differ for specific areas? For example, do they always go to the office manager or is there a specific person for equipment repair, ordering supplies, or team, and patient concerns, etc.?
  • When to meet? Always consider who needs to know what information and when do they need to know it?
  • What is the decision-making process and how is it communicated to the team? Who will make the final decision and how quickly can it be made? I suggest trying to resolve within one week after being discussed at weekly management meeting to keep the practice moving forward. Try to resolve immediately if it pertains to the schedule that day.

 

The communication structure will differ based on size of practice and number of locations. For example, if you have one doctor and five team members in a single location versus 5 doctors and 45 team members in multiple locations.

The communication structure in a small one location practice without a manager would simply be doctor to team member and team member to doctor. As simple as that sounds it does not necessarily happen. I often observe a doctor or team member going another team member to share their concerns instead of going to each other. It is called gossip and is divisive.

The communication structure for practices with a manager would flow from doctor to manager and manager to team member and reversed team member to manager and manager to doctor. Even this simple communication structure can be difficult to maintain if the doctor and manager deviate from the flow.

It becomes more complicated when there are multiple locations and more team members with different shifts or start and end times. Larger multiple location practices with team leads would utilize the following communication structure. Doctors to director of operations, director of operations to location manager, location manager to team lead, team lead to team member. The reversed would-be team member to team lead, team lead to location manager, location manager to director of operations, director of operations to doctors.

Doctors may not always need to be included in the flow of communication depending on subject matter. The director of operations may make the decisions to expedite the process and keep the doctors in the loop at their scheduled monthly leadership meeting.

Implementing this communication structure will help to keep everyone in the loop and aligned!

Tune in next month to learn about what meetings are necessary to support your communication structure.

 

 

March 1, 2021

A Line Sand Day!

A Line In The Sand Day!

If you are reading this, you miraculously survived 2020.  2020 was a crazy ride that brought a combination of challenges that nobody would have believed could have happened.  For some it might have felt like the end was coming.  But we survived. We endured the challenges, and some of us even discovered new strengths and became even better. We adapted and made concessions, but we are still here.  Which is reason enough to celebrate with a thank you, amen or a TA-DAH!

The dark side of 2020 was comprised of negativity, uncertainty, fear, stress, anger, judgment, and blame, etc..  Many of us were hoping 2021 would magically change everything.  While the calendar might have turned a new page, much of our reality is continuing to be the same as we start 2021.  It’s time to reset and take action.  It’s time to let go of those dark emotions and move forward to a happier, healthier and higher performing 2021!

A line in the sand day is the perfect way to reset for 2021.  A line in the sand day is the day we decide to wipe the slate clean and start fresh.  Let go of the past and focus on the future.

We need to be able to let go of some of the things that happened if we want to work together successfully.  Because stuff happens and will continue happen.  A line in the sand day will allow the team to move forward and work together in a cohesive, happy, healthy and high performing culture!

It starts with being able to forgive and move on.  Let go of the things that happened and focus on how not to replicate them in the future we become a creator of our life.  If we choose to hang onto the things that happened to us and choose not to move on, we become a victim of our past.  I would much rather be a creator of my future than a victim of my past.

Let’s say I have a disagreement at work with someone and we aren’t getting along.  Co-workers don’t get involved with other team member’s dramas or you escalate the drama unless you are the doctor or manager or whoever handles conflict resolution in your practice.

It’s our job to work together well with our co-workers the moment we step across the threshold to start our day.  It’s each team member’s responsibility to figure out what they need to do to work together successfully.  Meet with any team member you are having the difficult problem with.  Extend the olive branch and openly discuss what you need from each other to work together successfully.  Focus on big picture goals first which are the core values of our practice.  Find what you agree on and build from there.  Be open and willing to compromise and agree on a process.  It’s not my way or your way it’s our way that supports the core values of the practice and is in the best interests of the patients, practice and team!  Not any one individual.  We make agreements.  We hold each other accountable and we support each other.  There are no individual opt outs.

The success of a practice is based on the success of the team.  We succeed as a team or we fail as a team.  If we run into hiccups, we review as a team and adjust what is needed to stay relevant.

I suggest a line in the sand day on a yearly basis.  It will enable your team to work together in a calm and cohesive manner and let go of the drama in the past.  Implement your line in the sand day and make 2021 your best year yet!

Contact me if you would like help implementing your Line in The Sand Day!

January 1, 2021

Leave Your C.R.A.P. at the Door!

Leave Your C.R.A.P. at The Door!

Happy New Year!  Usually, I like to start the year focusing on how to improve and grow.  I don’t know about you, but I would be thrilled with just getting back to the old norm in 2021!  The pandemic was like a remote control that put us on pause and now it is time to hit play!

The uncertainty of the pandemic, election, shutdowns, etc.…the list goes on and on has been an enormous weight we have all carried.  Which over time lowers our level of tolerance and heightens our level of insensitivity.  The media including social media has played an enormous role in fueling negativity.  So many people with keyboard courage.  Strike that; keyboard cowardice.

We continuously hear our politicians talking about uniting and becoming one again.  Yet bipartisan behaviors continue to happen on both sides.  I remember my dad, Clem Miller, chiding me about being to pro for one party.  He believed you must take everything you hear regarding politicians with a grain of salt.  Truths are manipulated in both parties.  He simplified it by comparing Democrats and Republicans to the Looney Tunes characters, Ralph the wolf and Sam the sheep dog.  They would fight each other all day long.  However, once they clocked out for the day, they would go back to being friends.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5VYtiyjqx7E

We can’t control what others do but we can control what we do.  Our actions will determine our outcome.  It is time to leave the 2020 C.R.A.P. at the door and move on to a more positive and prosperous 2021!

C.R.A.P. is an acronym for:

  • Criticism
  • Rudeness
  • Assumptions
  • Problems

 

Criticism – The dictionary defines criticism as the expression of disapproval of someone or something based on perceived faults or mistakes.  We have the right to have our own opinion and so does everyone else.  Make a commitment to start 2021 with respecting other people’s opinions.  We show respect by listening openly to understand and even consider their point of view.  Start out the conversation by focusing on what you do agree on.  Be mindful of your words, tone, body language and energy.  Our words make up only 7% of how others perceive us.  Body language is 55% and tone of voice is 38%.  When you approach someone come with an energy and mindset of care and curiosity versus judgment and blame.

Rudeness – The dictionary defines rudeness as behaving inconsiderately, aggressively or deliberately offensively.  Consider how your words, body language and tone can convey perceptions of rude behaviors.  Be polite by being thoughtful of the other person’s feelings.  Simple words, please and thank you are powerful.  Ask questions to understand and acknowledge responses.  Before speaking always ask yourself, how can I say what I need to say while still respecting how I make the other person feel.  Avoid flippant sarcastic remarks like whatever which lessen the seriousness.  Address mistakes with kindness and compassion.  Body language such as rolling of the eyes or frustrating sighs are dismissive actions.  Curse words and name calling are offensive and never ever appropriate.

I love to use the acronym T.H.I.N.K. as my filter before I speak.  It helps me communicate positively and effectively and avoid conversations that require and apology later.

  • T- is it true
  • H – is it helpful
  • I – is it inspiring
  • N – is it necessary
  • K – is it kind

Assumptions – The dictionary defines assumption as a thing that is accepted as true or as certain to happen, without proof.  False assumptions run rampant and are most often negative.  Here is a three-letter word that will resolve assumptions…ASK! Stop assuming and ask questions to understand.  When you get that twinge in your gut and you think… “Hmmm…I wonder what they meant by that?” or you find yourself saying “I think they meant this” – you don’t know! Stop yourself immediately from wondering and speculating, go directly to the person and ASK! You will be surprised how many of your assumptions are incorrect after you hear their response.

Problems – The dictionary defines problem as a matter or situation regarded as unwelcome or harmful and needing to be dealt with and overcome.

The average person has 60,000 thoughts a day.  95% are redundant…the same thought we had yesterday is the same as today and tomorrow.  80% are negative unless we are mindful.  Negative thinking can often make a mountain out of a mole hill.  Many of our problems our self-induced by the words we use to describe a situation or person.  Words that label such as hard, difficult, and stressful generate those same emotions.  For example, we review the schedule at the morning huddle and say it’s going to be difficult and stressful day.  We will look for things to reinforce our beliefs and it will become a difficult and stressful day.  Instead use the word interesting to describe a person or situation.  Interesting is a neutral word.  Be a creator of your day and replace negative problem thoughts with positive actions that resolve the problem.  Leave your C.R.A.P. at the door and make 2021 your best year yet!

December 1, 2020

The Peak-End Rule!

I love helping dental teams co-create a happier, healthier, and higher performing service culture.  Our culture is a result of practicing a consistent set of values to deliver consistent experiences.  However, not all experiences are not judged equally according to the peak-end rule!

The peak–end rule states that people judge an experience largely based on how they felt at its peak (its most intense point) and at its end, rather than based on the total sum or average of every moment of the experience.  The peak-end rule highly influences how we remember our experiences.  We believe we are accurately recalling facts when it really has more to do with our emotions during the experience.

Our memories of positive and negative experiences are dependent upon two things: what we were feeling at the most extreme (peak) point and how the experience ended. Our memories are typically not an average of the experience or the amount of time we were engaged in the situation.

We can actually be irrational in our recollection and memory of events.  Our memories consist of a series of highpoints rather than a thorough record of facts and events.

We won’t know what the peak experience will be that will impact our team or patients.  However, we can plan the end experience.  Which is why it is imperative for the team to end the day on a high.  It is even more important than how we start our day.  Same with our patients.  We must not only welcome them warmly we must also have a warm farewell.

Let’s start with the team.  What can you do at the end of the day that will make a more positive end experience?  Maybe a heartfelt thank you, a high five for a job well done or even taking a moment to do a TA-DAH together!

The end experience for your patients usually involves paying their bill or a future bill.  Many patients have a difficult time parting with their money, which is why it is so important that the process flows smoothly.  Otherwise, it can become a negative end experience if handled poorly.  Which is why it is so essential that you have a confident and knowledgeable team member having the financial conversation.  Doctors you may have built rapport with the patient and they are excited to move forward with treatment.  Only to have it end at the financial discussion.

It is so important to role play this experience.  Also, make sure you have the tools you need to have a successful conversation.  My favorite tool is the Payment Options Form that Care Credit offers.  I love that you can customize it to include only the payment options you want to offer.  The form is so organized even a brand-new team member could confidently review payment options and sound very professional and knowledgeable.  It also includes all the legal information you will need to make payments arrangements.

You can find it at https://www.carecredit.com/providercenter/contactcenter/.  Enter the code JKM and request information on the Payment Options Form.

Here are a few steps to take to ensure not only a positive experience but a WOW end experience.

  • Delineate the final patient experience
  • Discuss and agree on verbiage and flow
  • Practice role playing and the physical walk through to build confidence and competence.

Whatever the end experience; following these simple steps will help ensure it is a WOW experience!

November 1, 2020

How to Thrive as The New Kid on The Block!  Part 2

How to Thrive as The New Kid on The Block!  Part 2

Last month we focused on the first three steps to thrive as the new kid on the block.  They were building confident trust relationships, learning systems and processes, and balancing your role as the associate.

The fourth step in fitting in is by avoiding gossip.  Gossip is sharing anything that is negative or private about another person.  Listening is gossiping if you are not in a position that allows you to resolve the issue.  The listener plays a 50/50 role.  Because it stops if the person complaining has no one to tell.  I have found it works best to refer the person back to the source of concern to work it out instead of listening.  Instead of listening ask them if they have tried to talk to the other person.  If they say no, ask them to do so and stop the conversation.

People who engage in workplace gossip often have a strong need to “fit in” and feel that gossip will help them achieve this. Gossipers often suffer from low self-esteem and think that talking negatively about others will make them look better. If we truly grasped the devastating fallout from gossip, we would no longer accept it as the norm for any culture!

Gossip affects:

*             Patient care and experience

*             Team communication, performance, and relationships

*             Practice performance

*             Morale

*             Trust

*             Respect

 

The fifth step to fitting is to be approachable.  Do daily or weekly check ins with your team and owner doctor.  A simple question to ask, “Do you have any questions or suggestions for me?”   Avoid becoming defensive even if you disagree or feel hurt.  People will avoid defensive people.  You have a role as an approachee (the receiver of information).

The Approachee’s role is to start out by thanking the approacher (the person approaching) for respecting you enough to come to you. It is important to recognize that the approacher’s intent is good and to realize that it is not easy to approach someone.

Listen intently to hear.  Make eye contact with the other person.  Don’t take offense.  Instead of defending, deflecting, or blaming someone else consider how your actions or lack of actions affected the outcome.   Be honest with your response.

Acknowledge you heard and understand them.  Never assume.  If you are unsure ask questions until you clearly understand.  If you are thinking I think they mean this…ask more questions.

Don’t take it personal.  If the concern pertains to the patients, the practice, or the team it is necessary to address.  It can be difficult to hear when we are not meeting the standards or expectations.  However, it is necessary to address in order to create and sustain a happier, healthier and higher performing culture.

Take it seriously.  It may not seem important or be a priority to you, but it is for the other person.

Control your emotions.  If you are upset don’t just walk off in anger or frustration.  Instead, let them know that you need a little time to process the information they shared, and you will respond later and give them a specific time.  Try respond within 24 hours.

I like love to utilize the L.E.A.R.N. acronym when being approached.

  • Listen intently to hear what they have to say
  • Empathize by acknowledging their emotions
  • Apologize for the situation
  • React by sharing what you will do
  • Notify those that need to be aware of the discussion and decision

Here is an example how you can use L.E.A.R.N.  Your assistant is frustrated because she just started working with you and doesn’t understand what instruments you want and when.  It makes her uncomfortable because she has been an assistant for years and this makes her feels inadequate.  The conversation might sound like this.

“Thank you for respecting me enough to come to me with your concerns.  I can understand how uncomfortable this must be to work with a new doctor.  I am sorry that this is frustrating for you.  We will take some time to discuss what instruments I need with the different treatments we offer.  During the procedure I will ask for what I need.  We need to learn how to work together and that takes time.  So, let’s agree to have patience and support each other.  I will make sure I speak with the other assistants about tray setups as well to keep us all on the same page.  This will ensure that we all have a great day!” 

Instead of constructive criticism (which is an oxymoron) use positive verbiage and have a constructive conversation.

Following these five steps will help you thrive as the new kid on the block!

September 1, 2020

How to Get & Stay Positive!

How to get and stay positive has become much more of an effort for many of us than it ever has been in the past.  Just turn on the news or read Facebook for five minutes and you may think it’s Armageddon!  Fortunately, much of the information is based on sensationalizing the facts.

Life is too short to spend it being negative and worrying.  Especially when there are so many reasons to be positive.  Other people and situations don’t make us feel a certain way.  We do it all on our own by how we think.  If we practice mindful thinking, we will feel more positive.

Start your day on positive note by thinking positive thoughts while still lying in bed.  Plan to have a good day by visualizing feeling good.  Wiggle your toes and stretch while you are visualizing.  Imagine feeling a sense of contentment and well-being and you will start to feel it wash over you.  Acting-as-if shifts our perspective and the emotions follow.  I like to start my day positive every day.  It does not hurt that I love the person I get to wake up with every morning.  That would be my husband Steve…just to clarify!

During the day focus on staying in the present moment and being aware of your surroundings.  Look for the positive around you.  Play the I spy…!

  • What is interesting?
  • What is beautiful?
  • What makes you smile?
  • What is inspiring?

It could be a flower, artwork, or a hummingbird.  It could be a great chair to sit in and read or the view out your window as you sip a great cup of coffee.  Maybe you have a fur baby like me who tries to get your attention while you work.  Give thanks for what is.  I personally reset by thinking about how grateful I am to have my health, my family, and I love what I get to do.  It is impossible to feel negative at the same time you feel gratitude.  If you are a list maker, make a list of what you see and our grateful to have in your life.

Our energy ebbs and flows like a tide.  Be mindful of your energy.  Reset when you start to feel yourself victim thinking and having pity party.  A pity party is when we focus on what we are missing in our life and what we had.  It might be a loved one, a job, or even life in general.  The why me stinking thinking.  The should or shouldn’t have happened thoughts.  Should and shouldn’t thoughts always send our emotions spiraling downhill.

Victims stay stuck thinking about what should or shouln’t have happened!  Whereas, creators think, so this happened so now what…!  They observe the emotion, triage the situation, and take the next step.  They believe they will succeed.  Scientists know that strong self-belief goes hand-in-hand with higher levels of resilience.  This means that if you believe you’ll be successful, it’s likely you’ll also have a high level of control over your thoughts, feelings and actions.  The result? You apply more effort and persistence. You demonstrate more resilience to push through. And you achieve what you set out to do.

The more we are open to and embrace that:

  • Life is uncertain
  • Life is unexpected
  • Life changes in a moment
  • No one owes us anything

The happier we will be.  Try to find humor even in difficult situation.  Appreciate what you have and what is regardless of what happened and what isn’t.

Labeling something as bad creates negative emotions. Truthfully, how can we label something as good or bad if we do not know the end? None of us have a crystal ball. So how do we really know if something is good or bad? There have been many things in my life that at the time seemed difficult or bad that turned out generating a very positive outcome.  Haven’t we all thought or said this is going to be bad at one time or another and yet it turned out to be one the best things to happen to us.  I can think of many situations and events that seemed very negative or difficult at the time that brought some of my greatest successes.  Be curious instead of critical and look for the opportunity in every situation.  What we look for we find.  Look for the upside in life!”

July 31, 2020

Implementing & Sustaining Change!

Implementing & Sustaining Change! 

“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” ~ Albert Einstein

I love this quote because it reflects what I often see when working with dental teams. A current system or protocol is no longer working and holding the team back from excelling. Yet it continues to be done the same way. When I ask why the usual response I receive is; “we have always done it this way”!

Similarly, our level of performance in life is defined by our willingness to question and challenge the status quo. We get good at something and it feels comfortable. Comfortable feels safe and is the downfall of excellence. Stop doing what you do just because it is comfortable and challenge yourself to excel.

A team meeting format including the following three steps is an effective way to review, evaluate, and update current systems and protocols.

Step One:

Establish a clear vision for what you want to achieve.

Start by asking; how can we do this in a way that will improve effectiveness, efficiency, and enjoyment? What does the change look and feel like? Define even the smallest details. I am going to refer to your vision as your boat. Describe your boat. What does your boat look like? When and where is it going? How fast is it going? What crew members do you need? What are their roles? What capabilities do you want them to have? What character traits do you want them to demonstrate? What is the purpose of your boat?

Step Two

Create a systematic step by step action plan for all training, tasks, and responsibilities necessary to achieve the changes.

Introduce one idea at a time and go deep enough to resolve any obstacles and create a step-by-step action plan. Avoid doing a data dump of many ideas left unresolved that you must continuously revisit. Be precise, practical, and realistic with the action plan.

As a team discuss and decide on the following:

·     Who on the team is going to do it

·     Which patients will you do it for

·     When

·     Where

·     Why

·     How

Also evaluate whether you have enough time and people to accomplish the action plan. If not, what changes would you need to make in order to succeed?

Most of us want to excel at what we do. It’s the unrealistic expectations that often get in the way. For example, let’s say the goal is to deliver an over the top experience to patients checking in as well as patients calling because it is the first interaction and impression most patients have with the office. If there is only one person handling all the calls and checking every patient in they are limited in the amount of time and attention they can give any individual patient. The limited staffing coverage impedes them from excelling. Another example is adding an additional procedure to a hygiene appointment protocol that is already at capacity. Either add time to the appointment or remove a procedure. These are examples of unrealistic expectations that can frustrate even the best of employees to the point where they lose their passion to excel. We are setting them up to fail. It is important to always evaluate time and staffing and set precise, practical, and realistic expectations to empower the team to excel!

Step Three:

Establish accountability.

Accountability starts with everyone agreeing to support the change and being held equally accountable to the ideas, systems, protocols, and standards. No double standards for anyone including the doctor or manager or you divide the team. Doctors and managers sometimes shy away from addressing what’s not working or not being done to the standard. Often to avoid what they believe to be micromanaging or conflict. This only delays what would have been a simple conversation and allows the situation to fester until it is ready to blow at any time! If a non-supportive behavior or attitude does not get addressed by the doctor or manager, it may be considered acceptable by the team. Address any concerns with attitude or behavior as soon as they happen (within a 24-hour period if at all possible). It is important for the entire team to maintain the new ideas, systems, or protocols. There is no individual opt outs! If something is not working for an individual, rely on the team to help to resolve. You may find other team members have difficulty as well and it may be necessary to adjust the protocol. Sometimes things look great on paper and yet don’t work well in real life.

If we want to achieve more than we ever have in the past, we must be willing and open to change. Changing thoughts, beliefs, and habits can create a sense of groundlessness and uneasiness. Our first impulse will be to revert to old habits because they feel comfortable. Our goal is to hang in there until the change becomes a habit. The average habit takes 66 days. Make a commitment as team to support the new change for a minimum of 66 days before evaluating whether it was successful. Implementing and sustaining change is only a habit a way!

What is one thing you can you stop doing starting today that will make the biggest impact in implementing and sustaining change? What is one thing you can you start doing starting today that will make the biggest impact in implementing and sustaining change? In the end, change requires letting go of what we have always known and done to allow in something new!

 

Please visit www.PracticeSolutionsInc.net if you would like to learn more about how Judy Kay can help you cultivate a happier, healthier and higher performing culture.

June 1, 2020

The Human Side of Dentistry

I am blessed to have the privilege of working in the dental industry since the early 1980’s!  Working in the dental industry for many can become just a job!  We must never, even for a moment, disregard that we are human beings caring for the health of other human beings.  It is not just about fixing teeth.  There are humans attached to those teeth!  It is important that we focus on the human side of dentistry and become advocates for our patients’ health.

I would love to see every medical and dental team instilled with an advocate mindset.  However, many of us have experienced a caregiver objectifying a patient by treating them like an object than a human being.  For example, they make decisions for the patient instead of educating and asking questions to understand what matters to them.  They have conversations about them in front of them and act as if they aren’t present.

I had a not so human experience during a recent visit to a radiology department.  It started out great with the x-ray techs introducing themselves as they ushered me into the room and explaining the process.  However, all manners and niceties stopped when the doctor who was going to be taking the x-rays entered the room.  He did not slow down enough to take a moment to introduce himself or ask me if I had any questions before he started.  He proceeded to rapid fire commands at me and then walked out of the room without further discussion.  There was no compassion or connection.  I felt objectified.  As if I were just a task that he was in a hurry to complete.  I understand that this may be a daily routine for him, but it was not for me.

It is vital that we remember when we are caring for our dental patients that they are more than just a task to complete to get on to the next one so we can finish our day.  We are dealing with their health.  What may be routine for us may seem scary or concerning to them.  It is essential that we recognize the human side of what we do.  It is our responsibility to take time to develop meaningful relationships with our patients, which allow will allow us to provide better and more comprehensive care.  When we do this, we become an advocate for our patients’ dental health.

Here are five essentials to help you become your patients’ advocate.

 

  1. Be happy to serve. Do you seem happy to the people you serve, both team and patients?  Think about it for a moment.  Would your patients and team describe you as happy?  Do you greet others warmly with a smile?  Are you happy to come to work and grateful for what you get to do?  Do you focus on the positive and celebrate daily?

 

  1. Get to know the human attached to the teeth. Ask questions to get to know more about what’s important to your patient.  What has been their past experience?  What are their goals and desires for their dental health?  What are their concerns about treatment and what matters to them?

 

  1. Educate your patient by having a conversation not giving a presentation. That means asking and answering questions as you go along to avoid assumptions.  Stop the data dumping and present information in bite size pieces.  Avoid industry slang and communicate on their level.  Verify time, sequence, cost and compliance (what they need to do to support).

 

  1. Focus on the WIIFTP (What’s in it for the patient). Show up 100% by being present in the moment.  Always contemplate what would make your patient feel more welcome, more comfortable in the moment and help build a stronger relationship?  Keep your patients in the loop by informing them what you are doing and why.  It’s what we say or don’t say that creates the patient’s perception.  We lose value when we don’t let our patients know what we are doing.  If we don’t say it to the patient it doesn’t exist.  For example, when you do an oral cancer exam explain to your patient what you are doing and the reasons why.  Even for those patients you have seen for many years.  Inform them every time.  The why must always be a value statement highlighting the benefit for the patient not the practice or the team.

 

  1. Address complications as soon as possible. Come from a real place of care, concern and curiosity versus judgment and criticism.  Always consider what it might feel like if it happened to you.  How would you treat them if they were a family member?  Let me clarify, a family member you like!  LOL!  Start out by asking, “How may I help you?”  Then be present, listen and hear what they are saying.  Share with them how you can help them by saying, “I can help you and this is how.”

When we focus on being advocates for our patients, we will develop more meaningful relationships that will enable us to provide better and more comprehensive care to our patients.  A win for the patient, practice and team!

May 1, 2020

Communication to Stay Safe & Sane

Whew!  What a year 2020 has been so far!  I don’t know about you, but I feel like the rug was pulled out from under my feet.  All my hard work and carefully laid plans disintegrated when the Covid-19 storm hit.  My emotions were like a roller coaster ride ranging from anger and frustration to fear, confusion and sadness.  That’s just to name a few.   Normally I maintain a very positive equilibrium and I was definitely off kilter.  I knew I had to get a handle on the negative emotions to get back on track.  Otherwise, the negative would crowd out my optimistic outlook.

After some reflection, I realized I needed to search out the positive in the current situation; and let go of the negative that I could not control.  I focused on the positive upside of more “time.  I now had time to:

  • Spend with my husband and dog
  • Call and zoom with family and friends
  • Social distance with neighbors
  • Complete projects around the house including organizing and cleaning
  • Work in my yard
  • Take more walks
  • Work out more
  • create newsletters, articles, webinars and presentations
  • Volunteer complimentary help to my clients

I stopped focusing on the downside and things I couldn’t control such as:

  • Uncertain future
  • Loss business and income
  • Limited interaction with others
  • Restricted travel

I am sure I am not the only person struggling with trying to stay positive.  There will be a wide range of emotions when we go back to work.  The wheels are going to fall off if we pretend nothing happened and we just bury ourselves working to catch up.  It will be critical to schedule time to communicate daily as a team.  This includes the doctor(s).  A huddle, first thing in the morning creates the perfect opportunity to check in with each other.

Have the entire team share their emotions.  How are they feeling in the moment and why?  Do they have feelings of fear, anger, judgment, sadness or hurt feelings etc.?   What does the team need from each other to feel safe and work together better?  What can they do to help each other more?  It is important for the team to be sensitive to each other’s needs.  We tend to think others have the same feelings and needs.  Avoid judging and criticizing if someone is more emotional and needs more reassurance to feel safe and comfortable.  There is not a right or wrong way to feel.  Feelings are feelings!

Trying to stuff our emotions and pretend we are all okay will lead to meltdowns.  If we don’t discuss our emotions, we will eventually burst, and everything will come spewing out.  When we reach that level, we are often no longer coming from a place of care or concern, but instead a place of anger.  When we act out in judgment, criticism, anger or negativity we can expect a like response.  This is what I refer to as an emotional reaction cycle.

We can avoid emotional reactions by taking time to start our day with a team huddle.  Initially we may need to extend our normal huddle time to accommodate discussing our teams needs and emotions in addition to our patients.

Be mindful of tone and body language when asking questions.  The questions I suggest are:

  • How are you feeling about being here today?
  • Tell me why you feel this way?
  • What leads you to believe…?
  • Tell me more about…?
  • Help me understand why…?

These questions work great at home as well.

Do a recap of the prior day to discuss and fine tune systems and processes.  This will help build clarity and confidence among the team.  What worked and what didn’t?  Define action steps to overcome obstacles.  Avoid the blame game.  We are all in this together and the more we help each other the better off we will all be.  Practice verbal skills, role playing and the physical walk through to be proficient when interacting with patients.  This will help the team feel confident which will ensure the patients feel confident and safe under their care.

Together we will rise up!

March 24, 2020

Covid-19 Resources to Stay Safe and Sane

Covid-19 Resources to Stay Safe and Sane

Emotions are running high and there are many different opinions on the severity and treatment.  Dentists our burdened with decisions regarding patient care, their practice and team.  It is imperative that we not go into panic paralysis.  Instead let’s focus on steps we can take right now.

The lifter in me always looks for a rainbow after the storm.  The good news is that this storm will not go on forever.  We live in a very resourceful country.  There is a national focus (government and private sector) on generating an adequate supply of personal protective equipment, respirators and ventilators.  Our leaders are deploying ships and transitioning buildings to help beef up the health care delivery system.  Scientists are working on medicine to treat and prevent Covid-19 in the future.  Our current status may seem daunting.   However, we will not only survive this pandemic we will thrive and be more equipped to handle any potential future outbreaks.

I am saddened and frustrated and even angry at times.  Maybe you feel those same emotions as well.  Those of you who know me well know that I am not one to stay in the poor me victim mentality.  Instead I prefer to be a creator and act. Therefore, I have spent the last week reading and watching videos to learn as much as I can about Covid-19 to help keep teams and patients sane and safe.

Here are suggestions and resources (ADA, OSAP, CDC and Judy Kay) that you may find helpful in staying safe and sane!

Create a patient flow protocol with your team for when you are back up and running.

  • Consider what will make our patients feel safe, welcome and comfortable?
  • Intake protocol questions to ask
    • Have you traveled outside of the country in the last 14 days?
    • Have you had contact with anyone with confirmed COVID-19 in the last 14 days?
    • Have you had any of these symptoms in the last 14 days?
      • Fever greater than 100
      • Difficulty breathing
      • Cough
    • “Remember Mrs. Jones, if you’ve had the flu or a cold in the last 14 days or you’re not feeling well before your next appointment, please call and we’ll reschedule so you have time to recover.”
    • “If you have flu-like symptoms, or if you’ve been exposed to a sever cough or cold by someone you know, please call to reschedule your appointment to a later date.”
  • Utilize posters, signs & floor decal communication
    • Communicate hand hygiene, respiratory hygiene and cough etiquette
    • Place a sign at the entrance to your office and strategic locations to let patients know they can reschedule if ill
    • Use personalized floor decals to create social distancing.  Create a unique positive message about your safety on each decal. https://www.stickeryou.com/products/indoor-floor-decals/689
  • Emergency care of patients – if more than one doctor – create mini-teams that work separately in case of exposure.  It will prevent the need to quarantine the entire team.

Engage your patients during your down time – Try to touch base with your patients on a weekly in the following ways.

  • Contact (call yes call on a real phone) all patients that have been affected by the shutdown (canceled appointments).  Reassure them that you will be there in the future to take care of their needs.  Reinforce what you are doing to keep them safe in the future.  Share the protocols and patient flow processes you are implementing.
  • Share the same information in short bite-size pieces on social media and a blog on your website.  Take videos of team members utilizing standard universal precautions as well as new precautions.
  • Send an email and or letter to all your patients sharing this same information

Here is a great example of a letter my client emailed to their patients.

Coronavirus Update‼️‼️

Due to the recommendations from the President and the American Dental Association, we have updated our office hours and protocols to keep our patients and community safe. Read a list of our updates below.

Effective through _______, our office hours will change to _____________ for emergency/essential treatment only. Our goal is to help keep our patients healthy, keep dental patients out of the emergency rooms so that doctors can keep their spaces open for Coronavirus cases, and minimize the potential risk to our patients and staff.

We will continue to communicate to our staff and patients regarding our plan to return to normal business hours. Appointments will be rescheduled until April and May with additional dates/hours being opened based on the need to accommodate our patients in a timely manner once we return to a normal schedule.

Our practice has always followed the strictest protocols regarding infection control in the dental practice. During this time, we have increased our disinfecting protocol for waiting rooms and patient areas. Patients will be asked to utilize a “virtual waiting room” by calling the office upon arrival. They will be taken directly to a room, and our lobby will remain empty to prevent any unnecessary contact.

We have limited staff at this time and will only see one patient at a time to minimize exposure risk. Patients will be screened via phone, and those who are experiencing symptoms will be not be seen. Upon arrival, we will take patients temperature to make sure that those that we see are not experiencing any infection. We have phone lines open to handle your dental concerns until our schedule returns to normal.

 

We will do our best to accommodate you and ensure that you stay healthy and pain free! For dental pain, please contact the office at _______________

We appreciate your patience as we manage this unprecedented time. Our goal is to keep our patients safe and healthy. We are in this together! We look forward to serving you again soon!

 

Engage your team during down time – try to touch base with the entire team on a weekly basis.

  • Have weekly remote meetings (I like Zoom)– to connect and check in as well as discuss new protocols once you are back up and running.
  • Create clear protocols for airborne, droplet and contact precautions for clinical and business area.  What will do in addition to Universal Precautions?
  • Practice verbal skills, role playing and the physical walk-through.

 

We are all in this together.  The more we stand together and support one another the quicker we will rise above this storm.

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