A typical day in the average dental office involves lots to do and little time in which to do it. Patients cancel at the last minute and their appointments need to be filled. Dental emergencies occur and throw the schedule out of whack. Amid all the stress, tensions can flare. Since you can’t get upset with patients, you may find yourself taking out your frustration on coworkers. How can you handle the inevitable challenges of a busy workday and still be patient with your teammates?
The risks of impatience at the office
The number one culture concern of dental office managers is “office drama,” according to a FutureDontics survey. Creating a supportive environment can help reduce drama and make the workplace more pleasant for everyone.
When employees don’t feel valued, they may leave for greener pastures, says Brandi Hooker Evans, owner of dental consultancy Stellar Outcomes LLC. With dental practices nationwide suffering from a shortage of hygienists and other employees, hiring qualified staff can be difficult. Don’t risk losing valued employees due to conflict at work. A more harmonious environment can help retain and attract the cream of the crop.
2 steps to better coworker relationships
Listening and helping are two keys to greater patience with your coworkers, says Holly Anne Mitchell, a leadership trainer and consultant specializing in dental practices.
Listen to each other
“Each person has their own set of worries and often we try to guess what they are,” Mitchell says. “The quickest way to have patience for someone else is to listen to their story. We don’t have to adopt their story or feel sorry for them, but we do have to listen and be forward-thinking on how to be of service to them without passing judgment or slowing the rest of the team down.”
Listening builds trust and naturally increases patience, Mitchell notes. “When you listen, you’ll notice how your frustration turns into concern and leads to connection.” When people feel heard, she adds, there is improved commitment and better results. “I often find that I simply share what is bothering me, the stress of it all lifts and I am able to lean into the better version of myself as a human and as a co-worker.”
Ask for and offer help
“Practicing good teamwork can help engage your prefrontal cortex—the part of your brain responsible for empathy and emotional intelligence—so you can get along better with your coworkers,” explains Mitchell. “Ask for help, offer help to others and make this a habit.”
Being helpful is clinically proven to reduce stress and increase wellbeing for yourself and others, she notes. It also gives you a new perspective on the unique challenges your coworkers face, which can be especially valuable in building understanding between clinical and business staff.
Lighten the workload with Lighthouse 360
It’s easier to have patience with your coworkers when you aren’t crazy busy. Yet demanding days and competing priorities are the reality for many front desk dental employees. Automating some of your most time-consuming tasks can help lighten your load, reduce stress and allow you to focus on what’s really important—building relationships.
Lighthouse 360 patient communication software is like a reliable team member to whom you can delegate. For example, Lighthouse 360 can automatically handle patient appointment reminders, confirmations, and reactivation and recall communications. When last-minute cancellations occur, the software’s Cancellation Fill-in feature automatically identifies them and contacts patients to fill the slot. No more spending hours on the phone.
When patients arrive, save time gathering and inputting registration forms with Lighthouse 360’s Patient FastTrack feature. It lets new patients fill out and sign registration and intake information forms on their smartphones and can also writeback information directly into select PMS applications. After the appointment is over, get patients out the door faster with Lighthouse 360’s online bill pay system that texts the bill to patients so they can pay online.
In a busy dental office, marketing tasks like requesting online reviews often get put on the back burner. But online reviews are critical to attracting new patients and growing the practice. Lighthouse 360 can help by automatically requesting online reviews after an appointment. It even posts them to Google, Facebook and healthcare-specific review sites such as ZocDoc, Doctor.com, CareDash, WebMD, Healthgrades and more.
With Lighthouse 360 handling so many tasks, you have more time for things that can’t be automated. Use the extra hours in your day for team meetings, performance reviews, providing feedback, interviewing job applicants or building patient relationships.
“Technology helps us be more human and focus on being present and connecting with the person right in front of us,” Mitchell says. “The simple things, like saying ‘thank you’ to coworkers, looking someone in the eye, and noticing when someone’s behavior changes so you can inquire about it all help to build trust and patience.”
Living your values every day
“When the physical body is out of alignment, it creates inflammation,” explains Mitchell. In the same way, when behavior in the office is out of alignment with your practice’s stated values, it creates mental and emotional problems.
“It’s important to align the habits, systems and processes in your office with your values, so those values aren’t just words on a wall or in the huddle, but actually baked into how you operate,” says Mitchell. Adding Lighthouse 360 to your team can help realign your systems and processes, so you can focus on living your values every day.
Looking for more strategies to improve and maintain mental health for yourself, your team and your patients? Lighthouse 360 is sponsoring Holly Anne Mitchell and Brandi Hooker Evans’ free 90-minute course, “Mental Hygiene,” Wednesday, June 30, 2021 at 4:30 PM Pacific/7:30 Eastern. Sign up now to reserve your (virtual) seat.