Dear New Associate

A great doctor-patient relationship is the key to delivering quality care. The ideal model to help people move toward optimal oral health is based on a behavioral approach that we can use every day. This approach is allowing the patient to drive outcomes.

An illustrative example:

There is a stark difference in a patient’s emotional response between being told, “You need a filling,” and saying, “You have decay in your tooth. How would you like us to address that?”

The principles of this approach are not difficult.

  1. You need to honestly commit to always placing the best interest of the patient first. You cannot fake this. All of us know when others are not sincere.
  2. Letting the patient drive the outcomes is a habit developed from committing to this approach and intentionally choosing your words to put the ball in your patient’s hands, then waiting for their response and listening well to clearly understand the outcome desired by the patient.
  3. Is the outcome congruent with your philosophy and standard of care? Does the patient need more information and time to come to an understanding of what is in their best health interest? How might you lead them there? Most folks really do want the best for themselves and their family. They will make good decisions if we provide the proper environment and education.
  4. You, the patient, and your team must be comfortable with the means necessary to get to the outcome desired. Both you and the patient must be comfortable with the time, energy and dollars involved in reaching a mutually agreed upon goal. A key element in eliminating stress and dependence on insurance, is painting the picture for your patient that they are in control of the outcome–not their insurance company. You and the patient have the patient’s best interest at heart, not a third party. I say this again. You are working on behalf of your patient, and with this approach, they are in control, not an insurance company.

Does this approach take more time and effort up front? Yes. However, once you adopt this approach you will be forever glad you did. Patients who enter your practice through this system will value you, your staff, and your care. They will commit to more and better dentistry and pay with gratitude. You and your staff will have lower stress and more fun because you are dealing with people you understand at a deeper level. Long-term, these people will refer new clients just like them.

I didn’t invent this model. I learned it from great mentors like L. D. Pankey and half a century of folks participating in The Pankey Institute and passing forward the priceless and timeless value of this approach.

Mentorship from the Institute will help you on your way to long-term success as a thriving dentist. As my colleague Dr. Barry F. Polansky often writes, “Mastery in dentistry is a continuous journey.” It’s a lifetime of learning, practicing, and reflection that enables us to more easily and fully transform the health of others who present themselves for our care. The journey, itself, propels us forward into greater and greater connection with our patients and our true selves.

Pankey Institute mentoring and encouragement made all the difference in my life and the lives of countless others. When I try to sum up the dental professionals and patients this “approach” has positively impacted, I get lost in counting the millions we have touched as a community dedicated to putting the dental patient’s best interest first.

North Shetter DDS

Dr Shetter attended the University of Detroit Mercy where he received his Doctor of Dental Surgery degree in 1972. He then entered the U. S. Army and provided dental care at Ft Bragg, NC for the 82nd Airborne and Special Forces. In late 1975 he and his wife Jan moved to Menominee, MI and began private practice. He now is the senior doctor in a three doctor small group practice. Dr. Shetter has studied extensively at the Pankey Institute, been co-director of a Seattle Study Club branch in Green Bay WI where he has been a mentor to several dental offices. He has been a speaker for the Seattle Study Club. He has postgraduate training in orthodontics, implant restorative procedures, sedation and sleep disordered breathing. His practice is focused on fee for service, outcomes based dentistry. Marina Cove Consulting LLC is his effort to help other dentists discover emotional and economic success and deliver the highest standard of care they are capable of.

2 thoughts on “Dear New Associate

  • August 29, 2022 at 11:06 am
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    Thanks for the mention Norm. I have been retired for 4 years now—and as Michelangelo once said, “I’m still learning.” As we go forward in all of our endeavors throughout all of life——a love of learning and mastery are two of our most important virtues.

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  • August 29, 2022 at 3:34 pm
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    Thanks North: “So true, so true!” Creating experiences unique with each patient, in the midst of treating them with respect and being honest with them, can invite others to another point of view, while offering them the time they require to formulate and verbalize their best choice, even in the face of some resistance! The magic of deep listening… Often easier said than done and worthy of our practice, practice, practice!

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