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September 1, 2021

Staff Shortage!!! 5 Steps to Help You Survive the Staff Shortage.

Yes, I know the term team is more uniting and empowering than the word staff.  Also, that staff is an infection.  😊 However, I like the alliteration of short staffed versus short teamed or team shortage.

Times have changed and nearly everyone faces sporadic or chronic staffing challenges.  Stop and take a moment and breathe deep!  You will survive this challenge and be even better after!

Start by writing an ad that is enticing and specific to attract that new superstar team member!  Together as a team define specific skills and traits desired for the position.  Please email me at JudyKay@PracticeSolutonsInc.net if you would like to receive a sample ad.

 

 

Here are 5 steps to help you survive the shortage until you hire your new superstar!

Communicate – Take time to communicate as a team.  Notice I used the term team now as no need for alliteration.  Together define specific tasks that were being done by the employee or employees who are gone.   Make a list of the specific tasks that need to be done instead of panicking.  Avoid generalization of tasks as the more specific the easier the solution.

Prioritize – Triage the list of tasks.  What must be done?  What can be delayed?  What can be let go?  I like to utilize Rocks, Pebbles and Sand to prioritize.

  • Rocks – Important and Urgent – Rocks must be done that day or consequences
  • Pebbles – Important and Not Urgent – Pebbles can be done another day without consequences. However, if delayed long enough a Pebble can turn into a Rock.
  • Sand – Not Important and Not Urgent – Sand is the filler like cleaning and organizing and can be delayed the longest.

Utilize Human Resources – Your human resources are your entire team.  So often we compartmentalize the team into departments.  We lessen our resources when we compartmentalize.  Instead, be creative when discussing who could do specific tasks.  Take time to cross train whenever possible.  A highly cross trained team is much more flexible and beneficial!  My favorite job description is:

“My job from the moment I check in to the moment I check out is whatever is legal, ethical, and within my licensure to help the patients, practice, and team thrive!”

Also consider which tasks could be done virtually.  There are many platforms available.   

Utilize Technology – Learn your technology in your practice.  Invest the time now and you will become more efficient and effective.  I work with practices nationwide and very few fully maximize their technology.  Schedule a call with your practice software trainer asap.  Review your lists of tasks to learn what tasks could possibly be automated.  For example, billing, confirming appointments, contacting recare etc.  There is often so much more we can do with the existing technology in our practice.

Look into additional technology that would allow you to automate in the clinical area.  For example, Voiceworks Software allows hygienists to be autonomous with probing as well as more effective and efficient.  Check out the video on voice-controlled charting.  The link is  https://oralscience.com/en/products/voiceworks/

Schedule – Review the schedule with your team based on current staffing available.  Many of you have new team members that will take time to train.  Do you need more time for procedures?  Do you need to change what is scheduled in conjunctive columns?  You may even need to temporarily suspend scheduling a column.  FEAR ALERT!!!  I know you are concerned about overhead and the bottom line etc.  However, if you consistently overwhelm and over burden your current old and new team members they may leave as well.  Or worse yet…they will stay and become burned out and disengaged.

Review the past two weeks schedule with your team.  Where were the bottlenecks and stress points?  What shows up consistently?  Adress the consistent problem areas by adjusting the schedule to accommodate them based on current team, training, and skills.

Implement these 5 steps and you will not only survive you will thrive!

August 2, 2021

Delivering W.O.W. Treatment Presentations!

The ability to proficiently present treatment and fees is critical to the success of your practice.  The more your patients understand their dental needs and the fees associated with treatment, the more likely they are to accept your recommendations. You want the patient to understand exactly what they need, why they need it, and the importance of getting it done now.

Most people dislike surprises when it comes to dental care and costs.  Real understanding on the part of the patient leads to case acceptance. Use stories and analogies focused on real life benefits for the patient.  For example, eating corn on the cob or steak or even just being able to smile.

It is vital that the team member (presenter) presenting treatment and fees is confident and comfortable with this role. Seventy percent of case acceptance breaks down because of the way the fees were handled.  The presenter must understand dentistry and absolutely believe in the value and the quality of dentistry delivered in the practice.

Teach all team members the procedures that are being performed in the office.  Together as a team create and practice consistent treatment verbiage.  Utilize the same verbiage the doctor uses to avoid any confusion and keep everyone in the practice on the same page.

It is critical that the presenter discuss the treatment and fees with enthusiasm.  Listen to the patient’s financial concerns, enthusiastically promote the payment options, and clearly communicate the financial protocol.  Our patients’ perception is based on only 7% of our words, 38% our tone of voice, and 55% our body language.

Consistent fees and payment protocols are vital to build the presenters confidence and proficiency. A dental practice is not a bank or a charity and deserves to get paid for services rendered. Never be uncomfortable about charging appropriate fees or pre-judge a patient’s ability to pay.

It is a lesson I learned well over 30 years ago.  I can clearly remember misjudging a patient’s ability to pay only to find out later they were extremely wealthy.  The patient arrived for their appointment disheveled and dressed in a dated threadbare running suit.  I later learned the patient had just come from working on a home project.  The phrase “don’t judge a book by its cover” is a great metaphorical reminder that means one shouldn’t prejudge the worth or value of something by its outward appearance alone.

The following approach will enable the presenter to deliver W.O.W. Presentations.

Mindset

The goal of the practice is to make it as comfortable as possible for the patient to have the very best dentistry available.  Adopt a mindset of being an advocate to help the patient get the treatment they need and desire.  Present treatment with care and concern not assumptions, judgement or criticism.

Informed Consent

A successful treatment presentation results in informed consent not just scheduling treatment.  Verify the following information with every patient.

  • Sequence
  • Time
  • Compliance
  • Investment

Handling Objections

It is essential for the presenter to actively listen to the patient’s concerns and comments. Their responses focused on What’s In It For The Patient (WIIFTP).  Use patient focused benefits verbiage.  Speak in “layman’s” terms so the patient clearly understands what is being said.

I teach W.O.W. Presentations.  W.O.W. is an acronym for weed out the weeds.  A weed is anything that might make your patient feel uncomfortable, unwelcome, or unsafe and possibly destroy the relationship.

I have found the Feel, Felt, Found Method to show empathy works extremely well.

  • I can understand why you might feel this way.
    • It tells the patient you heard them and empathize with them.
  • Other patients had initially felt that as well.
    • It tells the patient they are not alone and things can change.
  • What they have found was….
    • It tells the patient what another person found when they followed through, they got the results they wanted.

 

W.O.W. Process – Work, Options, When

It is important that there is consistency of treatment presentations amongst team members as well as clear documentation of all patient conversations.  Utilize the W.O.W. Process to deliver consistent and effective treatment presentations. This is a second acronym for W.O.W. which is work, options and when.  The W.O.W. Process is a simple three step process.

  • Work
    • Review treatment and fees with patient.
  • Options
    • Offer options, finalize, and sign payment arrangements.
  • When
    • Offer two available appointments and schedule an appointment.

Delivering a W.O.W. presentation is a win for the patient and the practice, resulting in a healthy smile for the patient and healthy bottom line for the practice.

Email judykay@practicesolutionsinc.net to receive your white page on Delivering W.O.W. Treatment Presentations.

July 1, 2021

Culture Is Like a Puzzle!

When I think about culture, I think of it as a puzzle.  The framework of the puzzle is created by the owner dentist(s).  They design it using their vision, core values, type of service and treatment they desire to deliver.  The team are the pieces that together make up the body of the puzzle.

 

 

I have observed an increase in the team turnover this past year due to the pandemic and other reasons.  It is important to hire the right team member for the right spot to be a good fit.  Otherwise, the result is problems and team turnover.  As a team identify the character traits and skill sets that are needed in the new team member to succeed at their role and integrate with the existing team.

The existing team is responsible to learn how to successfully work with the new team member.  It is imperative that the existing team members take the time to get to know and train the new team member.  I understand that training can seem like an added burden to the existing workload.  However, the more welcoming and supportive the training the sooner the new team member will be able to take on tasks.  Some new team members are quick learners and instantly work well with the existing team.  They are like puzzle pieces that fit together.  Others take more time and effort.

Set realistic training expectations for each position in the office.  Base the expectations on the average learning cycle.  I have found the tell them, show them, have them show you training process is very effective.  Create weekly goals for the first month and monthly goals for the second and third month.  Assign a mentor to meet with the new team member on a weekly basis for the first 3 months to review and celebrate successes as well as discuss goals for the following week or month.  It is imperative that the mentor is supportive and understanding.  Training expectations will lessen feeling overwhelmed and clarify goals for the entire team.

It is the responsibility of the team (new and existing) not the doctor or manager to recognize what they need to do to create a cohesive puzzle.

Often multiple new team members are joining the practice resulting in multiple changes to the puzzle.  This becomes even more a challenge.  So how do we make all the new pieces fit together?  Find opportunities for the team to communicate openly day-to-day.  Get aligned by clarifying the following:

  • What are the expectations from the new team members
  • What are the expectations from the existing team members

For example, existing team members, just because you have always done it a certain way does not mean you don’t need to be open to new ideas.  New team members don’t try to change everything right away just because you did it differently at your old office.  The comment, this is how we did it at my other office, quickly gets old and is not appreciated.  New team members immerse yourself in the practice culture to understand what they do and why.   Wait to bring up any suggestions until after the first 90 days.  This will help eliminate chafing between new and existing team members.

Implementing this puzzle analogy will help create a happier, healthier, and higher performing culture.

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!

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!

October 1, 2020

How to Thrive as The New Kid on The Block!  Part 1

How to Thrive as The New Kid on The Block!  Part 1

Congratulations your the new kid on the block!  You are a recent dental graduate who just got hired as the new associate to work with Dr Wonderful and her team!  It’s your first glorious day!  You are ready to take on the world and deliver exceptional service and care.  Oh, but wait a minute.  There are these people you now must rely on…called your team!  There was no mention of team relationships.  No one told you in school that you were going to be dependent a team.  You were just planning on focusing on dentistry.  Surprise!  That’s not how it works.  The success of a practice is largely based on how well you work together as a team.  So how do you build happy, healthy, and high performing relationship with an existing team.  Some of who you may have not hired in the first place.

It is important to remember that you are the outsider coming into their world.  It’s like being the new kid on the block.  You must figure out how to fit in with the existing team culture.  Fitting in takes time and patience.  The team is going to check you out because they don’t know you or trust you.  They will be watching your every move to see if you will fit in.

The first step to fitting in is to focus on building confident trust relationships with each team member.  The dictionary defines trust as instinctive unquestioning belief in and reliance upon something.  The trust I am suggesting is not one of blind faith but instead one of confidence!  Confident trust is based on consistency!   Consistency of good reasons to trust based on significant past evidence and experiences.

Think of the people in your life that you confidently trust.  Take a moment to reflect why you feel confident in trusting them.  Confident trust does not just happen overnight.  It takes time to nurture and grow.  However, breaking one’s trust can happen in a heartbeat.  The great news is that trust can be rebuilt.  It takes a sincere daily commitment to be transparent, consistent and realistic.  An actionable and measurable process is to assess your every action, attitude, and conversation by checking off the following list.

*             Am I being transparent

*             Am I being consistent

*             Am I being realistic

*             Am I doing what I said I would do when I said I would do it

 

Some examples of behaviors that build confident trust are:

 

*             Be transparent by keeping the team in the loop

*             Be consistent with daily tasks

*             If you have a concern talk to the person

*             Help when you see help is needed

*             Ask for help when help is needed

*             Ask don’t assume

*             Take ownership – do what you say you will do when you say you will

*             Focus on the greater good instead of WIIFM (What’s in it for me)

*             Don’t gossip

*             Tell the truth and be compassionate

*             Don’t be late or absent for trivial reasons

 

The second step to fitting in is to learn the current systems and processes.  Spend time talking with the doctor and each team member to learn why they do what they do.  For at least the first 90 days immerse yourself in learning their ways instead of making suggestions.  It will give you time to build trust while you learn.  The team is often suspicious of the new doctor.  They are afraid the new doctor is going to want to change everything.  After all you’re the new kid on the block…you should have to fit into their practice.  Many team members may be older than you.  Show them you respect their experience and expertise by being open to their guidance.

Once you start making suggestions remember that the team may like to do things their way.  Even if it may not be the most effective or efficient.  It’s their routine and they can do it on auto pilot.  Which is why your suggestions may be resisted even if it is an improvement.  New changes slow them down and take more focus and effort.  Don’t firehose the team with suggestions or requests.  Start with a simple change that will be easy to do and benefit them greatly.  They will see it as a positive and be more open to the next change.

 

The third step to fitting in is balancing your role as an associate.  You may feel like you are in the middle, torn between the owner doctor(s) and the team.   You are doctor and a leader.  Yet you don’t make the decisions.  Some decisions you may be more aligned with the team than you are the owner doctor.  The team may treat you like one of them and even tell you negative things about the owner doctor.  The owner doctor may complain to you about their team.  It is imperative that you not allow yourself to get stuck in the middle.  Always reinforce what is positive about the other person.  You may not always agree on every decision.  However, it is imperative that you support the owner doctor decisions in attitude and actions, or you will undermine them.  It is easy to judge when you have never walked in someone’s shoes.  It always looks easier when you are observing.  Leading a team and making the right decisions can be very difficult at times.  There are often many paths that can be chosen.

Tune in next month for the 4th and 5th step to thrive as the new kid or for that matter any team member in the practice!

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!

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