Huddle Up: Suggestions for Staff Meetings in Busy Dental Offices

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As a seasoned hygienist of working in multiple practices, I have developed an appreciation for the unique differences between them. Some practices hold a morning huddle every day before they grab their first patients of the day. Others have a monthly meeting or may not have any huddles or meetings at all (maybe only when necessary).

A morning huddle is an opportunity for open communication on such topics as patient cases for the day, any concerns, questions, get opinions about treatment plans, or updates of office policies.

The decision not to have a huddle doesn’t mean your office lacks good communicators. You may have other ways to get information across to everyone and stay on the same page.

If someone prefers group settings to express themselves and get support for their fellow employees, a “huddle-type” setting would suit you. On the other hand, others may feel more comfortable talking to an office manager or employer one-on-one.

I would also note that you must think about what things you want to discuss. For example, if you have a question about payroll or a concern about a fellow employee, I would not wait for a morning huddle to bring up these sorts of topics. Employee sensitive topics should be addressed in private with the proper individuals such as your office manager or employer. Use your own judgment on deciding which option is best for all parties. You should also consider the location of this private meeting. A great place to have this type of meeting could be a conference room, manager/employer’s office, or a room away from other staff and patients.

Are You Awake Yet?

Additionally, I have personally seen huddles be unsuccessful. You have to think that it’s morning, it’s early, people arrive at different times, and you may not be “fully” awake. People arriving at different times or coming in late limits the amount of time for discussion.

People enjoy socializing. When your friends arrive in the morning, you may prefer to catch up on gossip rather than staying on task. Also, consider that some employees work different days or shifts. This results in only some employees at the huddle and potentially relaying mixed messages (which can cause miscommunications). These kinds of variables don’t contribute to a successful huddle.

I have also seen successful huddles. In a school setting, students and their professors have huddles prior to the start of clinic and at the end before they are dismissed from a clinic session. I have found being involved was important and very helpful as a student. Now as a clinical instructor, I see it as crucial to get on the same page with my students to know what should occur with each of their patients. Are they completing a competency or finishing a patient? Do they have patient concerns, or have a patient that has a complex medical history?

Tips for Huddles

Whatever dental hygiene setting you are currently working in, here are some suggestions for topics to discuss in any form of a huddle:

  1. Individual patient cases (medical histories, premedication, treatment contraindications)
  2. Letting the dentist know which patients need possible restorative treatment, referrals, or an exam
  3. New patients
  4. Equipment concerns or questions
  5. Ordering necessary supplies that you may be low on
  6. Office news or updates

In our current environment, some important topics to discuss with your colleagues are new policies, standards, needed improvements, concerns with infection control, your safety, and patient care within the COVID-19 pandemic setting.

Some factors you may want to consider before having a huddle are:

  1. Time – Will the huddle be long enough for a thorough discussion and get something accomplished? Will you have a huddle before the first patient, last patient, or a different time?
  2. Atmosphere – Will there be interruptions during the huddle? Will a hygienist need to leave to grab their patient?
  3. Location – Where will this huddle take place? Do you have an employee’s only area or meeting space? Is the space large enough for the entire staff? Will it be virtual instead?
  4. Necessary materials – Do you have needed materials such as patient routing slips, evidence-based research, or updated office policies readily available?

Once your huddle or meeting is finished, everyone can evaluate its effectiveness. During this time, you can determine the frequency of holding a huddle. Will it be daily, weekly, monthly, or bimonthly?

If it was not successful, what went wrong? Why do you think it was unsuccessful and what could you have done better for a different result?

Communication is essential in any aspect of life. It creates a whole team at the office. Like I previously mentioned, huddles aren’t for every office. You may communicate through email or a text message chain/group chat. Whatever option you choose, it is important to determine what will be the best option to create optimal communication for the entire office. The key is to keep the communication outlets positive, especially if you are starting the day with one.

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Kaitlyn Machado, RDH, BS, MEd, FADHA
Since a very young age, Kaitlyn Machado, RDH, BS, MEd, FADHA, has always wanted to be a dental hygienist. She was the youngest student to graduate from her dental hygiene class in 2017. Since then, Kate has returned for her bachelor's and master's degrees. She is a faculty member at her local dental hygiene school and a clinical dental hygienist. Kate has been a part of Today's RDH since its launch. She is extremely passionate about homecare, loves her prophy paste and fluoride varnish, and enjoys attending professional conferences. In addition, Kate loves to work with a local non-profit organization that helps fight against hygiene insecurity of all ages in her community. As a lifelong learner, she enjoys being as involved as possible in the dental hygiene profession. When Kate isn't working, she enjoys traveling, sports, watching movies, and spending time with her amazing, supportive family.