This past week was my first time treating patients in a little over a month and a half and here are a few observations to hopefully lift your spirits:
Things are different, yet so much is the same
Orthodontics doesn’t change. Teeth move in the same way they always have. Yes, it was weird jumping back into my first patient (who incidentally asked me, half jokingly:”Hey doc, are you gonna be a little rusty?????) but things will come back to you right away. While this new “normal” is kind of weird, like anything, a routine will form and all will be good.
The energy level of my team was unbelievable
When the Cares Act passed, adding $600 to unemployment benefits, many of us wondered how many practices would lose team members who would decide to stay home and collect their “free” money. Polls both in Facebook groups and in casual conversations make it clear that a lot of businesses-not just orthodontic offices-have found that many employees are not coming back to work. Is that a problem? Not really.
My practice reopened with a team that was three smaller than in March. Of course, my first response was concern. “How will we be able to service the needs of the patients with a smaller team?” I have set columns of patients and losing two team clinical team members means needing to replace them (even after using protocols and software to lean my schedule), but the interesting thing is that even being down a couple of folks, my team was energized and ready to seize the day. They have been positive and upbeat and it was only after seeing their attitude that I realized we lost the baggage that was holding our team back. The ones who came back were there because they wanted to be there, valued the practice and (so far) the feel of the office culture in amazing.
If you’ve lost team members, don’t lose a moment’s sleep over it. You’ll emerge stronger and better because of it.
The potential employee pool is deep
I’ve practiced through four economic downturns and when they occur, you can be certain that there will be many more applicants for your business openings.
We’ve interviewed potential administrative and clinical team members during the last two weeks and I have been amazed at the quality of candidates. The average applicant is FAR better than what I’ve seen in the last decade. Smart, engaging, experienced people are applying in droves for jobs that I could not fill even 3-4 months ago.
Nobody wants to own a business in an economic downturn, but if you need to fill a position in your office, now is going to be a great time to find that next amazing team member.
It’s nice to be in a quiet office
The CDC/ADA recommendations of having as few patients in the office as possible has meant that patients have been coming back into clinic alone. No moms or dads or siblings and two things stand out:
- Appointments move so much quicker without distractions. It’s amazing how well things flow when there are no interruptions, questions, or siblings running around the office/chair. And the office is so much more quieter, calmer, serene and dare I say…peaceful? No parents at the front desk scrolling through their calendar for 10 minutes looking for that “perfect” appointment.
- Younger patients are now free to actually create their own healthcare experience with THEIR providers. You know those kids whose parents need to hold their hand during a cementation of an RPE “worried” for their child’s welfare, because the child is “scared to death” (and showing it)? So far, it’s gone. Without the parents there, do you know what happens to the kids who were scared? They come out of their shells and actually interact with the assistant and doctor and we see they aren’t scared to death. They have fun and learn how to cope with an appointment on their own. Don’t misunderstand what I’m saying. I love my patients’ parents but there IS a reason why almost every pediatric dentist I know asks parents to stay in the reception area. These providers were taught what we’re now learning: Building a healthcare patient/provider relationship with a child helps empower them to trust and make it through a “scary” appointment better than any hand holding ever can.
There is lots of hope
New patients are calling, people are starting treatment, businesses are reopening and we know that we’ll get through this. When will things be “back to normal”? Nobody knows. But we will get through this. Our teams and practices WILL be stronger and better run because of the time we spent working on them while we were closed.
I missed my patients while I was closed and the other day I found myself walking out to cars to chat with parents from 6 feet away when I had the chance. I love connecting with my patients and it’s funny how when I first got back I thought I’d be much more focused on the phone ringing with new patients. In reality, the biggest concern I have is making sure that my patients are OK and that my team is aligned with the practice vision.
It’s clear that things are different than they were when I left the practice in late March. Not better, nor worse. Simply different. This is an event we will tell our grandchildren about some day and these tough times will pass. Keep an open mind to change, be smart and reasonable in following protective guidelines and keep working ON your practice while woking IN it.
I’m always here if you need anything.
Wishing you the best,
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