We usually confirm our Saturday patients the previous Monday, to give patients ample time to both remember and change their appointments if necessary. This gives us time to reschedule them and fill in the open appointment time. This past week, we had a change in schedule on Friday that was unable to be filled. It is rare that we don't have a few people on our "we will take the first Saturday available" list, but we were unable to place a patient in that time slot.
Our day began at 7 a.m. The gap between patients was midmorning. We did attempt to move the later patients (husband and wife), but they preferred to sleep in. Pat, our patient before the gap, needed a replacement of porcelain-fused-to-metal crown on tooth No. 18. After the obligatory chitchat (this woman has been a friend for well over 25 years, and we have seen each of our children grow and get married, then have babies), I administered her block. Now, time for more chitchat.
During the course of our conversation, I mentioned that I was giving the keynote address for the women's program at the upcoming Yankee Dental Congress. She asked what my talk was about, and I told her "balancing your life." She started laughing and said, "You? You're giving a talk on balancing your life?"
As a nonprofessional mentor of mine, Pat's criticism may have been founded. As a perpetual volunteer, I do have a tendency to offer my services, be it for a school for children's dental health, sitting on a committee to change the food service at our local high school, or participating in an industry project. All knowledge is good, so why not learn more outside of dentistry?
"Do you want to see my program while you are getting numb?" I asked.
"Sure," she said.
And off we went to Dropbox to view my balance program. When we got to the slide about saying "no," she said, "I have been telling you to say no for years, but do you listen? No!"
After we finished watching the PowerPoint presentation, Pat said she thought it was a good program. Then we went back to the treatment room and began our procedure. Of course it was No. 18. Of course it was strategically difficult to remove the old crown. But after that little break, we completed our task in good time. My staff and I even had 30 minutes left over to do some administrative catching up before the next patients arrived.
Our gap in the schedule that day did come at a good time. With all the chatting, we ended up running a few minutes behind. But more important, I had the opportunity to share with a patient and friend a part of my life she usually doesn't get to see.
It is good to let people know we have lives outside of dentistry. This is what makes us human. I am not saying to share everything, but a well-placed discussion about your love of photography or a review of a great movie you just saw may open their eyes to a new you. Who knows? Maybe it will bring more referrals. In addition to being a mentor and friend, Pat has certainly sent me a fair share of patients over the course of our friendship.
Sheri Doniger, DDS, practices clinical dentistry in Lincolnwood, IL. She has served as an educator in several dental and dental hygiene programs, has been a consultant for a major dental benefits company, and has written for several dental publications. Most recently, she was the editor of Woman Dentist Journal and Woman Dentist eJournal. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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