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You See...I See...

Posted Apr 09 2009 7:14pm

It's all about your point of view.  You see yourself as fair, They see you as confusing.  You see them as being utterly ridiculous, They see themselves as thinking out of the box (just like you told them to).  You see me as being a meany, I see you as being childish.  So...what is the great equalizer?  The patient, of course.
    While we're all batting our points of view around, the patient may be waiting, and listening.  And wondering, "Where do I fit into all of that?"  The other day one of our hygienists had a few cancellations due to patients coming down with the flu.  The other, trying to be a nice, team player, moved one of her patients to the other's schedule.  The other hygienist ended up having a difficult prophy to do and was running behind.  The one who now didn't have a patient went to the waiting room to let the patient (that was supposed to be her's) know that it would be a few more minutes.  Then she anxiously walked back to her operatory and sat there with nothing to do while the patient continued to wait.  I shook my head (noticed lots of things rattling around up there), blinked (yes, I was awake even though I was hoping I was dreaming this)  and walked back and asked why the patient was being kept waiting.  I listened to the fairness explanation and then said, "Fair to the patient is what's important.  Bring her back and get going."  The other hygienist would have kept the patient waiting another 20 minutes.  How could we be seeing the same thing so differently?
    When all was said and done, I was fairly forceful in expressing my dissatisfaction with that scenario.  I knew the two staff members probably felt a little misunderstood about it, but I was surprised at how they described the scenario at lunch the next day.  We were out to eat and the front desk assistant was with us.  They brought it up and basically skimmed over the fact that the patient was kept waiting and flashed forward to "Linda was really angry."  Now, I didn't see myself as angry, per se, more like astonished that after working on perfecting patient service that anyone would think it was ok to keep someone waiting. 
    I could have reacted with annoyance, but I realized some dissection of the obviously not dead issue was necessary.    So, I thought about their intent.  Did they intend to make the patient wait?  Of course not.  They were trying to be good to each other.  They were inside their own heads thinking about how to work well together and not make one look better than the other.  Admirable thing for co-workers to care about each other that way.  The problem with that kind of thinking is that it's one dimensional.  They didn't think about how that would affect the patient, and in turn, how it would whip back around to affect them.  So, they saw two nice hygienists working well together, I saw two hygienists who didn't think it through and get to the bottom line, taking the best care of the patient.  I now also see one office manager who took a long time to consider the fact that at least they care about working well together and that's the positive in all of this.  Finally, knowing that, we can share a way to do it better next time.
    There are so many chances for I see, You see in a small community that is a dental practice.  I see you give her something, You see me acting envious.  I see her kissing up, You see her being friendly.  I see them gossiping, They see themselves chatting.  Flip it.  What's it all mean?  Where are those thoughts coming from?  Ask.  You may be surprised.  But, ask and be willing to listen and try to understand.  Otherwise, next time they'll just shrug and walk away, they won't trust you anymore.  Listen, try to understand, and try to come to a solution that works.  I see that you feel________, tell me about it.  I see it this way_______________.  I understand what you're saying, do you understand how I see it?   How can we make this work? 
    The key is in developing a common point of view on everything that affects patient care.  Otherwise, you can spend all day talking around thoughts and feelings while your patients grow discouraged and disappointed until finally they disappear.  Then, you'll be able to agree on, "I see the unemployment office."  "Oh yes, I see it, too."  "Why didn't we see it all more clearly when we still had the chance?"

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