In the lead-up to New Year's Eve, I'm often asked if I have any plans for the new year. Aside from avoiding all restaurants and automobile traffic, my response is usually that we have nothing special planned. Between the crazy people on the roads and the horrible service in restaurants, our new tradition has been to stay safely at home. We usually talk about the unpredictable Chicago weather and the predictable polar vortex. We talk about reflecting, as well.
This is where Elsa comes into play. For those of you who have children (or the rest of you who aren't able to go a day without hearing about the movie "Frozen"), the theme for 2015 is "Let it go." The new year is all about new beginnings -- new plans, new forecasts, and new goals. We need to forget the past and move on to the future. Here is where the "special" begins.
Statistics from the ADA show that our earnings are not climbing at a pre-2000 rate. My accountant is singing the same song. This is truly disheartening. However, we have to move on. We may not be receiving the same number of new patients, but they all offer the unique opportunity to reach out to others who do not have dental care.
Yes, we will be still competing with the Groupon-type offers that are available online. Those who are purchasing these "deeply discounted" coupons for dental care possibly may not be the patients we want in our offices. They are not known to stick around a practice. They receive the free goods then leave. In my experience, very few are accepting comprehensive -- or even any -- treatment. We want long-term patients (or as relatively long term as this economy affords). So, let it go and appreciate those patients who appreciate our care.
Is there an employee who you have in your office who is not as productive, cooperative, or beneficial to your mission and goals? It is time to let that person go. Keeping employees who are making you, as a business owner, unhappy is not a sustainable practice. If you dread walking into your office because Susie is working today, how focused will you be with your patients? Waiting for your staff member to misbehave (the cellphone policy is constantly being infracted, or the operatory is not set up correctly) or give you attitude ("It's not MY job!") does become onerous. If you do not have a system in place for yearly employee review, it may be the year to start one.
Do you have a patient who is constantly dictating to you what to do or what time to do it? Alternatively, the patient who is constantly late or a no-show for appointments? These are, most likely, patients who have been doing this all their life. Even in this day of "we need all the patients we can maintain," it may be time to let them go, as well. Being frustrated during the day also is not a healthy practice. This goes for family members who really do not respect your time as well.
Let it go.
Finally, if there is a person in your life who you constantly have to defend yourself against, someone who is not supportive of you or constantly is an irritant, let that person go. Yes, we all have to deal with people whom we would prefer not to, but for those you have a choice about, let them go. Life is too short being miserable, either in or out of the office.
Try starting the year by letting something go. It will lighten your load and give you some space to add something new and exciting.
Some of the things I will not let go and are very appreciative of are my profession. I love dentistry. In a world where you do have the ability to let it go, dentistry would never be anything that I would not want to practice. I am also appreciative of loyal employees -- those who have not complained when we did have large openings in our schedule. I also appreciate my great patients who always have a story and give me a story to tell. Finally, I am very grateful for you, who take the time to read my crazy little stories.
Sheri B. Doniger, DDS, practices clinical dentistry in Lincolnwood, IL. She is currently vice president and president-elect of the American Association of Women Dentists and editor of the American Association of Women Dentists "Chronicle" newsletter. 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. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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