If you watch one episode of Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares, you will see a repeating theme. Previously great restaurants have come close to shutting their door, because the owners’ passion for maintaining high standards has waned. Diners have dropped them from their A list, their B list, maybe even their C list. Without a dramatic makeover and grand opening, diners are not going to come through the door.
Bring this forward to 2020 and the pandemic. Patrons… clients… customers… have legitimate concerns about moving forward with their lives. Dental teams are doubling down on conversations with patients, along with adopting and adapting to many changes in how they practice. And, then, there is another problem I am seeing in all businesses, not just dental practices. The government gave money to employees to “not work.” Now when they are needed (especially in dental practices and labs), employees want to stay out not only for more “free lunch” but also out of health concerns of their own. They don’t want to take coronavirus back to their family members at risk.
Some of this comes down to the history of the business and how they practiced before and the culture they created…that went way beyond “money.” I’m not saying this is true of all dental practices and less so in the relationship-based practices, The Pankey Institute and other thought leaders promote. But, practicing every day consistently at the quality level of the past takes tremendous commitment. The moral compass of the practice leader—the dentist, must continue to show courage, trust, respect, authenticity, integrity, communication, education and growth, excellence, resilience, purpose, and alignment. Whew! That’s a tall order when you are feeling stressed and exhausted.
It’s no wonder if some of your pre-pandemic passion for spending time with individual patients has waned. When I came out of dental school in 1973, Paul Simon had not yet written his monumental song Slip Slidin’ Away, but within my first decade of practice, I knew the song well and already sensed that life was not on the trajectory I wanted. My passion for dentistry had waned.
We work our jobs
Collect our pay
Believe we’re gliding down the highway
When in fact we’re slip slidin’ away
With inspiration at Pankey and Dawson, wide-wide reading, and encouraging colleagues, I found my way… my passion… my balance… my joie de vivre in dentistry. I discovered how to not only conserve my personal energy but also generate more energy through personal contemplation time and daily exercise. The greatest discovery I made was that my practice of dentistry actually centered around one specific system: the comprehensive patient examination and the meaningful conversations I had with patients during the exam.
The One Thing to look out for is the quality of your comprehensive patient exam. Is it at the highest level?
The comprehensive examination is the “one procedure” or process that gives the dentist the opportunity to express and display his or her leadership “virtues.” Don’t let it slip slide away.
Conversation is where the human side of health care takes place. Continue to spend extra minutes in conversation. The meaningful moments you share with your patients will energize you and help you get through current stressful days. Just remember that having a meaningful conversation, in many cases, requires us to let our guards down and become vulnerable. It means sharing our philosophy and showing our human side… maybe even how challenging dentistry is right now… and yet still so rewarding.