A bedrock value of Dr. Pankey and those who have chosen to follow his visionary teachings is that the welfare of patients is first and foremost.
Putting the patient’s needs first is the lens through which all other professional decisions we make as caregivers must pass. If something doesn’t pass the test of being in the patient’s best interest, as ethical dentists we must give it a serious review.
Why Technical Skills Alone Are Not Enough
The response to this commitment by many dentists is to dedicate themselves to perfecting their technical skills, whether that be during their dental school days or in frequent post-graduate studies. Dr. Pankey encouraged this, harkening back to the days of his parents’ dry goods store, saying it is necessary to “have it on the shelf.”
While a necessity, simply being a good technical dentist is not enough. We live in a world of marketing sensory overload and patients experience a tsunami of messages when trying to make healthy choices. How can a good dentist stand out from the crowd and benefit more patients?
Empathetic Understanding Is Key
Dr. Pankey’s mantra was “Know Your Patient, Know Your Patient, Know Your Patient,” but limiting that knowledge to the patient’s clinical condition short-circuits the concept’s power. Knowing the patient’s circumstances is priceless and allows you to understand some potential barriers they may have to moving forward with treatment, as well as when now is the right time to pursue optimal dental health.
Combining excellent clinical knowledge, an empathetic understanding of a patient’s circumstances, and earning the patient’s trust can open a powerful pathway to optimal health for our patients. Knowledge, understanding, and trust, coupled with our dedication to what is best for the patient, allows for the possibility of true partnership.
Treasured learning from Dr. Pankey and the Pankey Institute are the tools to partner with our patients – to walk with them, hand-in-hand, on the path to optimal health. The marketer sees the patient as a prospect – someone who will bring business and profits. The technician sees the patient as a collection of defects that need expert fixing. It is the master dentist who brings skills, both technical and behavioral, to partner with patients as they guide and support them toward their vision of health.