If you're a dentist, particularly one in solo practice, it can be tough to take a vacation. Here are three strategies to help you win some much-needed recharging time.
In Part 1 of this series, we made the case for taking more vacation time and returning to work recharged. But how do you actually accomplish this? If you run your own solo practice, you have patients who count on you year-round, and your income is dependent on seeing those patients. You also have staff who have vacation needs and wants that may not always directly correlate to yours.
Let’s look at some factors to consider when ramping up your vacation plans.
Consider a Replacement Arrangement
If you have a non-contentious or not overly competitive relationship with a local dentist, consider an arrangement under which you cover for each other for a period of a couple of weeks. This kind of arrangement has the advantage of not disrupting your patients’ schedules or your staff’s seasonal plans. If you don’t have someone you’d consider for this kind of role, you can look into a retired dentist who would like a few weeks’ worth of work over the course of the year. Note that under either of these arrangements, you’ll need to check in with your malpractice insurer and ask whether your practice will be covered under this kind of scenario.
Some dentists worry that a replacement dentist who is still actively in practice may either mistakenly or purposely steal a patient. That is not an unfounded concern, of course. But it is also not out of the question that a more negative attitude that comes from having no time off will turn patients off anyway.
Consider an Office Closure
For many, the “replacement” arrangement may simply not fly, for any number of reasons. Dentists can also consider simply closing their office—either for a longer stretch than may feel comfortable to you or, perhaps, at regular intervals over a certain period. If you’re like a typical dental office, you are probably scheduled six months out or perhaps even longer, so a full office closure would require a significant amount of advanced planning. You’ll also want to solicit feedback from staff members and maybe even some patients about the approach.
As an alternative, you could consider simply cutting back your office hours over a month. August is a popular month to do so, but for that reason, it may be more advantageous from a business perspective to consider the extra time off during October, around the holidays (a busy time for many of your patients), or perhaps even next Spring. The disadvantage to this approach is that it doesn’t allow for the kind of extended time off that an office closure or full week or two of vacation offers. But the advantage is that it’s easier to schedule and easier on patients.
Set Clear Boundaries with Patients
This can be hard for many dentists to do, because many are people-pleasers who rightly believe that great customer service will keep patients returning to your practice for years to come. But setting and enforcing limits is important, as is your mental health. Everyone will be happier in the long run if your patients understand when they can see you and reach you—and when you limit the incursions on your personal time.
When and if you do manage to get away, it’s important that you really be away. You can’t refresh and recharge if you’re constantly on the phone with the office, or looking at x-rays over Instagram. If you’ve managed to carve out some vacation time in any form, make sure it’s uninterrupted.