Dentists who don’t care

July 5, 2012
Renee Knight

Issue 3

It’s bound to happen. At some point in your career, you just stop feeling the passion you once had for dentistry. You find yourself in a rut, and just going through the motions of your day to day. While this is common, no matter what your career, it doesn’t have to become your normal. There are ways to get that passion back, to renew your energy and your enthusiasm for the work you do. Here’s how:

It’s bound to happen. At some point in your career, you just stop feeling the passion you once had for dentistry. You find yourself in a rut, and just going through the motions of your day to day.

While this is common, no matter what your career, it doesn’t have to become your normal. There are ways to get that passion back, to renew your energy and your enthusiasm for the work you do.

Here’s how:

Find that work life balance. Dentistry can’t be the only thing you do; you have to make time for family, friends and those non work-related activities you enjoy, said Penny Reed Limoli, owner of the Reed Limoli Group. As a small business owner, it’s easy to let work take over your life, which only leads to stress and burnout. Make time to get the rest you need, to exercise and to just have some fun. You have to remember that while practice productivity and profit are important, they’re not everything.

“How can anyone keep passion alive in a business if the only focus is profitability?,” Limoli said. “There has to be more than being the leanest operation. There has to be more to it than the numbers. From what I have seen the dentists who have some sense of balance are the most successful, and that doesn’t just happen. They choose to have it and made difficult decisions about what they would and wouldn’t do to make that happen.”

Make a list. Take the time to sit down and write out your dream list (both personally and professionally) and your vision for your practice, said Kim Brozovich, a coach for Jameson Management. Write down everything you want and what you feel is keeping you from getting there.

“A lot of times dentists get frustrated about the business side of practicing,” Brozovich said. “When you write out a vision, ask yourself if you’re doing the dentistry you’ve always wanted to do. For example, if you want to do cosmetics but you’re treating a lot of families and more kids than you used to and that’s stressful, then we need to figure out how to reduce that. After you do a vision worksheet and have what you want on paper it makes it more tangible. The stress reduces almost immediately for doctors who do this because now they feel like they’re in the beginning of a plan.”

You have to communicate. All too often, dentists tolerate behaviors from their team members that they shouldn’t. If you have team members who are always late and it stresses you out, tell them that. Remind them the importance of getting to work on time, for the practice and for the patients, and make sure they understand there are consequences if it continues. Make it known how you want your practice to run.

“Because dentists run a small business, sometimes they tread lightly on the balance between being the boss and having a relationship with the team,” Limoli said. “They have to have a clear standard and make sure those expectations are known to the team. And they need to be pretty high, yet reasonable.”

Make sure you’re communicating on a regular basis through team meetings, Brozovich said. Keep your team members up to date on new technologies you plan to purchase or systems you’d like to implement, and ask them for their opinions. Update them on practice goals and how the team is doing to meet those goals. Keep them involved and excited about where the practice is headed.

Hire the right people. You have to surround yourself with people who share your vision for the practice. If you don’t, they won’t have the right attitude about what you’re trying to do, and that will only bring you down.

“Who you hire is more important than how you manage,” Limoli said. “If you want to be excited about your practice, you need a team of people who have a passion about what it is you’re doing. If you’re the only one exited about being there, that’s going to be hard.”

And even if you do have the right people, if you’re feeling blah that can trickle down to the team, Brozovich said. Involve them in goal setting and make it a fun experience for both you and your team members. Keep a vision board or poster to remind everyone of your shared goals, and celebrate together when you reach those goals. This can help re-energize everyone in the practice. 

Make yourself a work schedule. If you don’t make a schedule and stick to it, it’s too easy to stay late every night finishing up paper work, Limoli said. Schedule your patient hours four days a week, and then use the fifth day to do paper work. This not only helps reduce stress, it reduces wear and tear on your body. 

If you already have a work schedule, take a look at it. If you need to change your hours around or reduce them to relieve some stress, then do it.

Give back. Strive to achieve your goals, but be thankful for what you have. Reach out to others who are less fortunate than you, maybe by offering a local family the dental care they need for free, or volunteering at a local clinic for low income patients.

“There’s just something about helping others just for the sake of helping that can really help you refocus on what’s important,” Limoli said.

Don’t forget about your patients. Remember, if you’re feeling run down your team will pick up on that, and so will your patients. They may not know exactly what the problem is, but patients will notice if you or a team member is distracted or doesn’t really want to be there, Brozovich said. Patients will likely end up feeling uncomfortable, and some may even take it personally. To keep your patients happy and wanting to come back to you for their dental care, you have to have that confidence and enthusiasm that lets them know they’ve picked the right place. You have to have that balance in your life.

“The dentists who generate the highest net income are not necessarily my happiest clients,” Limoli said. “Real happiness doesn’t come from making the most money but from making a good living and also having time to spend with family or people who are important to you, and doing the things you really love.”