When leaves are turning red and yellow and grasses are turning shades of pink and brown, most of us start anticipating the coming holidays. It’s a season to list everything we still want to accomplish by the end of the year…and it’s also a time to think more about others.
Not everyone experiences happiness during the holidays.
It would be wonderful and remarkable if every patient in your dental practice has fond memories of the holidays and has family and friends with whom they celebrate. But proactively working year around to know your patients has provided you with glimpses into what your patients really might be feeling.
Getting to know each patient has revealed recent losses…a spouse, parent, son, or daughter. It has revealed the emotional impact of divorce, job loss, the chronic stress of work or caregiving, and then, there are a multitude of worrisome health problems.
An idea for uplifting these special patients: Mass-printed holiday greeting cards can be turned into something special that touches these patients on a deep level. Some effort needs to go into personalizing the cards with handwritten messages but the message can be as simple as, “We want you to know that we are thinking of you during this holiday season. You are someone we admire and care about.” That special touch…a small act of kind outreach can make a beautiful, memorable impression on special individuals you have come to know, think about, and may be praying for.
The entire practice team can help in listing the few dozens of patients who would benefit most from personal notes. Everyone can pitch in to write messages. Everyone can sign the cards. Social wellbeing among your team members will be elevated by creating an open afternoon on the schedule to do this as a “family” of compassionate caregivers. Add lunch or snacks to make it a team party.
Tip for a Thriving Team from Gallup’s Wellbeing at Work: Operationalize your mission. You will clearly communicate your mission of genuinely caring for patients when you demonstrate to your team that you do care by investing personal effort. Doctors, this means writing personalized messages right alongside your team—and with enthusiasm.
Many patients become hyper busy during the holidays.
Cancellations and lateness occur more frequently in December. Despite best intentions of keeping their dental appointments, some patients overbook and overextend themselves. My personal thoughts are to be patient with them and do four things.
1. If your practice is large with many patients coming through your door daily, it may not be your regular practice to make confirmation phone calls. In December, make the extra effort to follow up text messages with personal phone calls. Have team members organized to make as many calls as possible.
2. Build value for December appointments via a Happy Holidays newsletter that sparks enthusiasm for your practice. Include a digital photo of the holiday decorations in your reception area and remind your December patients that you look forward to wishing them Happy Holidays in person.
Here’s an idea: What if you were to put together oral health care gift bags for a local group home or shelter and communicate to your patients that those coming in for appointments in December will have the opportunity to put their name on a card in a gift bag? You would spread community awareness, the spirit of health, and giving back to your community as a wider dental family.
3. Update your wait list of patients who might come in on short notice. Have those names and numbers at the ready.
4. When open time occurs in your schedule, have a mindset of gratitude: “Wow, I guess we won’t feel so pushed today. We didn’t expect we would have this time to breath and catch up a little.”
Your patients want to know what to do if they have a dental problem over the holidays.
Have a clear plan that you and your team members can engage around to respond when patients have emergency or urgent needs over the holidays. Tell your patients via your media (recorded phone message, newsletter, Facebook page, website blog, etc.) what to do if a dental problem occurs. Clear communication from you tells them that you are thinking of them and want to make it easier for them to manage life’s exigencies…even during the holidays.
Here’s to a season of doing our best and thinking of others!