4 Ways to Surrender the “Me” and Become “We” in the Dental Office

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It takes everyone in a dental office working as a team to provide the best care to patients and establishing a happy workplace. Have you ever had a coworker improve your mood in an instant? Besides gifting a million dollars, here are four ways you can return the favor.

Remember Significant Events

Birthdays, anniversaries, etc. I can’t tell you how great it makes you feel when your coworker remembers your birthday and even acknowledges it with a heartfelt card.

Sometimes we get so bogged down with staying on time and making sure we are providing for our patients that colleagues forget to take care of each other. After all, we spend more time with our coworkers than with most family members. So, go the extra mile, remember the family member who just left for a military deployment, or ask how Susie’s daughter is doing in her first year of college. It will bring unity in the workplace.

Help the Front Desk

After graduating as an undergrad, I took a year off from school, and I was upgraded from daily errands for the dental office where I worked to working at the front desk. Piece of cake, right?

Not quite. I thought answering the phones would be easy because it’s just talking to people, and I do that all the time. But there is so much more than just answering phone calls. As a matter of fact, you answer the phones while you’re simultaneously doing five other things, such as looking up insurance, checking patients in, inputting new medical histories, preparing deposits, etc.

I would go home mentally exhausted most days, and I couldn’t even do half of the stuff that the receptionist did daily. I learned so much from our receptionist that year (God bless that fine lady), and my main takeaway was that the front desk is the face of the office.

The stress of answering ten million phone calls is in no way easy. If you ever have a chance to help the front desk in any way, it does not go unnoticed. I know, because I was the front desk at one time, and it would give me a sigh of relief just to know that someone else was willing to help. Now when I have a cancellation or even a long break, my first stop is at the front desk, because even the simplest gesture of offering to help confirm patients for the next day is the most meaningful gesture.

Take Out the Trash

I know, I know. I didn’t break my back in hygiene school and study my bum off just to take out the trash. Yeah, yeah, yeah. But this is your area of work, right? Do you take pride in every action you do at work, or are you simply “cleaning teeth”? Now I know we’re not just cleaning teeth during our prophy or SRP appointments, and the same applies for taking out the trash.

You’re not simply taking out the trash; you’re taking pride in your workplace. You’re saying “I love my job.” I just topped off the bag of trash in the kitchen. Instead of pushing the garbage down as far as I can, I’m actually going to take the trash bag 60 feet to the trash container outside. No one is above taking out the trash, or anything for that matter. It’s a matter of taking ownership of your workplace; plus, if others see that you’re not “too good” to take out the trash, they will reciprocate.

Build a Bridge, Not a Fence

Picture this, it’s 4 o’clock in the afternoon, and you’re right on time to finish at five. Actually, you might even finish early. You just patiently wait for your last patient of the day to gracefully walk in with perfect knife-edge gingival margins whom flosses daily.

Score! Then you glance over to the operatory next door. The doctor just completed an extensive crown that took much longer than originally planned, and his assistant looks like she could burst into tears because they’re running at least 30 minutes behind. You have one of two options. You can sit high and mighty on your leather saddle-chair throne, or you can march happily next door and help turn over the operatory. I can guarantee she won’t refuse your help. Better yet, it will provide a dim light at the end of the tunnel that leads to the end of the day.

It may not seem like much, especially since it takes less than five minutes to break down, disinfect, and re-barrier an operatory. But the gesture speaks volumes. Your small act of kindness creates unity and shows your assistant or fellow hygienist that you noticed they were running slightly behind and you helped in any way you could. Next time you find yourself running behind schedule, you might find a fellow coworker helping you chart or break down a unit.

The bottom line is clear. We’re all in this together. Not one single person can run the dental office effectively, but one of us can ruin the office with a disheartening attitude or lazy work ethic. Treat every patient and coworker with kindness.

My rule of thumb is if that person were my mama, would I help or turn the other cheek? Now we all know we wouldn’t be in this world without our mothers, so lend a helping hand! Give them the five-star mama treatment.

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