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To take excellent care of patients, take care of yourself.

Dental office managers, take time for self-care

Sept. 25, 2023
Office managers excel at taking care of others, but it's easy to forget to take time for self-care.

It's in our DNA. The need and desire to help others is quite irresistible. As a wife, mom, friend, and neighbor, I am happy to be the person others can count on if they need (or want) something. Being an office manager in a busy practice also gives me the opportunity to meet others’ needs minute-to-minute in every working day. And I love it. To be able to be this person that I love, doing a job I love, for as long as I can, I need to remember to focus some attention on myself with a little self-care. Colleagues often ask, “How can you find the time?” I respond, “How can you not?”

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For all you do

Self-care does not have to mean extravagant days at a spa or luxury vacations. Those are definitely nice and I would be the first to sign up for both, but I’ve found that self-care is as much how we think about ourselves as what we do for ourselves. It’s mental and physical.

First, let me say that anyone who chooses dentistry as a career and passion is a hero to me and often to their patients and teams. According to the American Association of Dental Office Management (AADOM), successful office managers/ administrators most likely have the following characteristics or skills:

  • Leadership
  • Accountability
  • Professionalism
  • Communication
  • Organization
  • Time management
  • Attention to detail
  • Customer service
  • Passion for learning and growth
  • Approachability
  • Confidence

That’s a long list, and if you’re a successful office manager, you need to know that all of those bullet points apply to you. Humility is also a characteristic of office managers, and that’s great. It’s important to let others shine. But it’s just as important for you to shine in your own mind. Your inward shine can exude out of you and into the environment around you. Even just a sprinkle of that shine can influence your surroundings.

Here are a few ways to remind yourself just how talented and valuable you are:

  1. Get a mirror for your desk. When you use it, don’t just check for food in your teeth—look yourself in the eye and take a moment to compliment yourself. You can do it! You can find one great thing.
  2. Take notes. When you do something especially extraordinary, jot it down in a notebook. Then, when days are a bit hard, look back at what you’re capable of. Use it as your North Star. You did that? Yes, you did!
  3. Be your own cheerleader. Give me an O … give me an M … what’s that spell? Office manager—a person who is first to cheer others on. Make sure you share that cheer with yourself. While it can be lonely at the top, being a top-level OM will allow you to lift others up as well!

Focus on you

Now let’s talk about your health and wellness. To be able to meet the demands placed on you, you must have the energy that comes from having a healthy body, not from the local coffee shop. Each person’s path to health is as unique as they are, and there are many paths that can be taken. Rest, yoga, meditation, exercise, laughter, great food, great friends, supportive colleagues, the aforementioned massages, and vacations— all of these can help improve your health and help you feel your best. The key is to make self-care a priority. Yes, you need to put you first sometimes. For example, self-celebrate Office Manager Appreciation Month. You don’t have to rely on your doctor and team to celebrate you (although I hope they do). Join thousands of other #AwesomeOMs and check out CareCredit/OMAM for a special experience just for you.

Weave self-care into the fabric of your life. It’s not about finding the time; it’s about appreciating yourself enough to make it part of a positive internal dialogue. Surround yourself with people and things that serve you well—from food to friends, you’ll never waste a minute. Actions become so fulfilling that you’ll always find the time. Know that you are appreciated and valued. And thank you for being an #AwesomeOM!

Editor's note: This article appeared in the September 2023 print edition of Dental Economics magazine. Dentists in North America are eligible for a complimentary print subscription. Sign up here.

About the Author

Beverly Wilburn, MAADOM

Beverly Wilburn, MAADOM, is the office manager of Karl A. Smith, DDS, LLC Periodontics and Implants in Alexandria, Virginia, and Waldorf, Maryland. In addition to managing a multi-location specialty practice full time, she offers part-time comprehensive consulting services for periodontists and case acceptance and marketing services for other dental specialists and multi-specialty groups. She also consults for several dental malpractice attorneys. She is a lifetime member of AADOM, a member of three local AADOM chapters in the Washington, DC, metro area, and serves as the executive administrator for the Virginia Society of Periodontists.

Updated August 2, 2023

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