Developing a hygiene philosophy of care

March 21, 2012
Mary Lynn Wheaton
Mary Lynn Wheaton

Issue 4

Many dentists have a written document that outlines their practice’s vision and philosophy. Ideally, the doctor shares this with the dental team and with patients as it is not only a statement of what you aspire to attain, but it is a useful tool for clear communication. It has been said that the difference between a vision and a hallucination is how many people see it! If your team and patients have not seen your practice philosophy, it may be a hallucination.

Many dentists have a written document that outlines their practice’s vision and philosophy. Ideally, the doctor shares this with the dental team and with patients as it is not only a statement of what you aspire to attain, but it is a useful tool for clear communication. It has been said that the difference between a vision and a hallucination is how many people see it! If your team and patients have not seen your practice philosophy, it may be a hallucination.

In our challenging economic climate where patients question the recommendations we make for their care, the dental team plays a critical role in representing the practice’s vision. Often dental hygienists are on the front line, advocating treatment plans to patients. Patients must be educated to understand that it is in their best interest to heed the hygienist’s recommendations. The Dental Hygiene Philosophy of Care is another tool to help with this. It is tied intimately to the practice’s vision, and takes it a step further by explaining how dental hygiene care plays an integral role in the patient’s health.

What it does for your practice
The Dental Hygiene Philosophy of Care can be a guiding tool to help your team consistently make decisions that are  compatible with the clinical direction of the practice’s doctor and the hygienists. The document can be used during the hiring process, at the very beginning of the relationship between a doctor and a potential new hygienist. For example, in reviewing the practice philosophy along with the dental hygiene philosophy, a dentist and hygienist can discover incompatibilities between their philosophies. Compatibilities ensure a match made in heaven!

Multiple hygienists in a practice can benefit from developing a Dental Hygiene Philosophy of Care. The process allows hygienists to share their views and come to a common ground on what they aspire to attain for patients as well as expressing their desires toward career fulfillment. Think of a practice where all clinicians are on the same page, using the same methods, providing the same information to patients and having a continuity of services. This provides a seamless delivery to patients and decreases everyone’s stress, including the doctor, administrative staff, and assisting colleagues.

Think of this philosophy statement as the broadcast of the hygienists’ vision and values. What do they want to broadcast? Here are three areas for each hygienist in your practice to consider:

Facts: What does the hygienist stand for? What contribution does she want to make to the patients and to the practice?  What does she aspire to create?  What words does she connect to in the practice vision?

Emotions: What feelings does the hygienist want to have when thinking about her career? What does she want others to feel about her personally and professionally?

Images: What images come to mind when she thinks about her future? What phrases or mottoes describe the practice? What images come to mind in thinking of the relationships she has with her patients and co-workers?

If there are multiple hygienists in the practice, encourage them to use these and follow-up questions to interview each other. Have someone take notes to capture the words and phrases that seem most important to the team. If there is only one hygienist in the practice, encourage that hygienist to have this conversation with you. Talk about getting to know one another.

How it helps your patients
Your practice’s hygiene vision might end up sounding like this example: “We believe that patients deserve to attain the highest level of health possible. Our dental hygienists partner with the doctor and patients to provide trusting relationships where patients understand their care. Our hygienists are dedicated to assessing the health status of each patient and providing customized treatment recommendations based on these assessments. Patients value this approach by committing to their care and ultimately are rewarded with a lifetime of smiles!”

These words are now part of your armamentarium. When patients question you or your hygienists about why they need 3-month continuing maintenance care and raise some of the myriad of other objections you hear daily, you and your team are “armed and dangerous.” The vision is a catalyst toward conversations that unite people. Uniting people with an understanding of common goals is important in achieving success any time, but in these economic times it is foundational.

Helping your hygienists grow
Part of Pride Institute’s vision is to provide the dental community the best information and counsel to enable them to enhance their lives as well as the lives of the patients they serve. This DPR supplement along with our new Building Blox,  “More Than a Cleaning: Building a Dynamic Continuing Care System,” are examples of our commitment to provide practice management tools to the dental hygienist. And it starts with that vision!