"He felt that his whole life was some kind of dream and he sometimes wondered whose it was and whether they were enjoying it." ~Douglas Adams~
Time is money and no one feels like they have enough of either these days. I recently corresponded with a hygienist who is worried because she can' t seem to get her patients finished in under an hour. She was wondering if it was ok to leave stain and plaque on the teeth if she got sub-gingival calculus off. Where are we in our thinking if we have a dedicated hygienist thinking that she has to weigh the least offensive way to leave a prophy uncompleted in the effort to finish in under 60 minutes? We' ve gotten to the point in some dental practices where we look at our staff members and patients as production numbers. One hygienist times ten prophies a day, equals the hygienists worth to the practice? Is it worth it to hire another assistant? Will she make up for her salary in production? Never mind that the sole assistant is working herself into early burn out and going home and collapsing on the couch with no energy left to live a normal life. As a dentist, do you feel an urgency to beat your productions numbers from the year before every year and do you run yourself into the ground, or raise your fees to a point that patients are leaving, to do it? What kind of life is that? Who' s enjoying it? Remember, in the end, we all end. It' s what happens in the middle that counts. It' s your life, and you have the ability to make it enjoyable.
That hygienist got me thinking about what her day must be like. I thought about how her concern about fitting her work into a time period that doesn' t fit her, may affect her interactions with her patients. Speed doesn' t always equal efficiency because it doesn' t allow for the personal aspect. I' d rather have a hygienist take a little longer because she is inspecting every surface and groove on every tooth rather than writing her grocery list in her head as she works. In other words, I' d rather have a hygienist who works with intention and takes a little longer, than one who skims over every tooth with a hit or miss approach and then shrugs when the dentist pulls a hunk of chicken out of an interproximal and pointedly wipes it onto the patient napkin. I want the hygienist with a mission, not the hygienist whose only mission is to get done and out on time. I' ll give the first hygienist more time because in the end she' s going to educate our patients and be a partner in co-discovery with the dentist, bringing the patient into the process.
Hurrying makes an impact on the atmosphere of the office. I' m not saying that you should act as if you and your patients have all day either. Efficiency, according to Webster, means being productive of desired effects. When you look at yourself and your staff, decide what the effect is that you desire from yourself and them. Look at each individual and decide if they can do what you need them to do. Then see what they need to be able to perform well and weigh that against the value you and your patients will receive from them having that. If you have to expect a hygienist to see nine patients instead of ten, the production lost from that one appointment may be more than made up for in the quality of her work, the satisfaction of the patient from the experience, the treatment she may help the patient understand and want, and the word of mouth advertising that nine pleased patients a day will produce. Production numbers can' t always be written down on paper. A smart person knows that there' s more to it than ink on paper. It' s the feelings that are generated, the good will that' s created and the satisfaction in doing a worthy thing well, without angst that let' s you close the door quietly behind you at the end of the day. It' s having energy and spirit to enjoy the life that waits on the other side of that door that is the biggest benefit.