There are, it seems, no end of people who have never held a mirror and probe ready to tell you how to work “smarter not harder” and how to achieve “work/life balance”. Many standard management lessons can be applied to non-clinical areas of dental life but when with patients things are very, very different.
Joanna Taylor’s research work www.joanna-taylor.co.uk/stress-in-the-dental-practice.html showed that the biggest cause of stress for all members of the team is running late. Yet virtually every practice I visit admits that they have the problem to a greater or lesser extent.
Here are Alun Rees’s 10 Tips to help you reduce the stressor.
- Don’t let the tail wag the dog – it’s your appointment book and nobody else’s; it should function so that you can give of your best.
- Time yourself. How long does it take you to do each and every procedure? Are you sure? Have you ever timed yourself? I bet your nurses are better at allocating time than you are.
- Delegate properly. Dentists should only do what only dentists can do.
- Ring fence your time, do certain procedures at chosen times when your concentration is at its best.
- Limit your hours. It will concentrate your mind on what’s important. Remember Parkinson’s Law “work expands to fill the time available for its completion.”
- Work ergonomically. Don’t make one more movement than you need to. Every time you change instruments you are wasting time so do as much as you need to before moving to the next instrument. Ensure that your working position, lighting, magnification, assistants are organised to make you work at your best.
- There is an old saying, “if you have to eat a frog do so first thing in the morning”. If there is a particular procedure that don’t enjoy then get it out of the way early in the day or there’ll be a whisper in your ear all day telling you that the hour is approaching.
- Leave time for emergencies. Have true emergency slots that can only be filled on the day.
- Fine yourself for late running by refunding fees to patients – you expect them to be punctual why shouldn’t the opposite be true?
- Ensure that every team member fully understands what is involved in every procedure so that the entire process and time involved can be explained to the patient properly.
Bonus tip. See children after school for their examinations but never, ever attempt treatment on a young child late in the afternoon – they’re knackered and it’s a recipe for failure. If the parents don’t understand then you’re not communicating the reasons properly.