by Ann-Marie DePalma, RDH, MEd(c), FAADH
Boston is an area steeped in rich historical culture. From the Battles of Lexington and Concord of the Revolutionary War, to the Kennedys and the presidential bids of Governor Dukakis and Senator Kerry, the area is well renowned for its historical legacies. But the events of September and October 2004 remain the most uplifting the area has seen in recent history. What happened in 2004, you ask? Well, the Boston Red Sox, after 86 long years of not winning a World Series, finally did it. Not to mention they did it by coming back from the jaws of defeat down 3-0 to the New York Yankees and then went on to sweep the St. Louis Cardinals in four games. But what does baseball have to do with dentistry? The Boston Red Sox of 2004 were a team of “idiots,” as they called themselves, yet they all worked together to bring the national championship to Boston. Does your office work as a team, or as a group of individuals? Is your office effective, so that you can be the champions of dentistry in your area? This article will review some of the aspects that will make you and your office team shine as the Boston Red Sox did in 2004!
There are nine items that I consider the habits of effective offices that bring the shine to any dental team. Time and space constraints don’t allow me to go into detail about each, but I will elaborate on a few. These nine items include:
- Being focused on continuing education and not resistant to change
- Maintaining constant communication by participating in team meetings and/or huddles
- Practicing patient-centered care
- Displaying excellent phone etiquette
- Presenting an office philosophy with a sound mission statement
- Offering patients and staff the red carpet treatment
- Receiving respect and offering rewards
- Involvement in community service
- Maintaining a noninsurance-focused practice
A doctor and staff who focus on continuing education together are a team that basks in the glory of winning. Last year I attended the PennWell Corporation/RDH® Under One Roof Conference, held in Las Vegas. Hygienists from across the country attended, with 2006 having the largest attendance to date. We were all there to be educated about the various aspects of dental hygiene. I even met a hygienist from Australia whose employer dentist paid for her transportation, hotel, course fees, and other expenses so that she could shine as a world-class hygienist in his practice!
Many dentists can’t afford to do that, but what does it take to enhance your team members to be the best that they can be? Theories and techniques have changed since many were in dental hygiene or dental school, so embracing the latest educational venues and opening one’s mind to the changes that occur within our profession can be beneficial to the everyday practice of dentistry/dental hygiene.
Communication is vital to any dental practice. Whether within or beyond the practice, nothing is accomplished without excellent systems of communication in place. Do you maintain constant communication with practices to whom you refer or those who refer to you? How can a patient be “handed off” to a referrer without information that can impact the treatment plan, from medical and dental history to financial implications to social information? Do you have a system in place to maintain communication within your practice - from the business staff to the assistant to the hygienist?
A system is even more important when there are several team members who may or may not be employed on the same day (i.e., the hygienists who work on opposite days). Are your hygienists even recommending the same home care or procedures to patients? The communication system can be enhanced by regularly scheduled staff meetings or team huddles where all members are required to attend. Depending on the needs of the practice, a variety of avenues can be explored to increase the communication within and beyond the practice.
Does your team respect you? Do you respect your team? The definition of respect in Webster’s Dictionary states that respect is being regarded with deference or esteem. In any dental practice, respect is a two-way street. Expecting respect means offering respect. Rewards, not only monetary, are seen as signs of respect. Do you reward your staff regularly? Saying thank you, offering incentives, and providing opportunities for growth for your team are excellent ways to reward staff members. However, does your team offer their appreciation to you? Do they commend you on a difficult procedure or patient? Do they offer to take you to lunch to discuss a patient with whom they may be having difficulty?
The Boston Red Sox didn’t receive any respect until they won the World Series. Now they are the team that sells out the most on the road! You have to think and act with respect before it will be given to you.
Is your practice involved in community service projects? Does your team participate in school activities, community projects, or city-wide events? The dental practices that shine are those that are involved in the community and are visible within the community. The volunteer aspect of any service brings rewards far beyond monetary. Being a face in the community helps people to know you as a dental family, not just the “place to have my teeth cleaned.” Making your practice a part of the community can bring much satisfaction and reward.
Embracing the habits of effective offices can bring great satisfaction and joy to the practice of dentistry and dental hygiene. Being a team that shines makes all the difference in the world to those who seek your expertise. Be part of a winning team!
Ann-Marie C. DePalma, RDH, MEd(c), FAADH, is a faculty member at Mt. Ida College’s dental hygiene program after spending more than 25 years in private practice. She is a Fellow in the American Academy of Dental Hygiene, and is pursuing a master’s degree in education in instructional design. DePalma has written numerous articles and provides continuing-education programs for dental hygienists and dental team members. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.