Sheri's Solutions: Flexible scheduling

2013 08 14 15 37 19 36 Doniger Sheri 2013 200

"I was not able to get my child from one side of Chicago to his office by 5."

I had an interesting conversation with a woman about the schedule of her child's orthodontist. After learning that my office is open two Saturdays a month for the convenience of my patients, she started commenting on the inaccessibility of other dentists for her son's appointments.

Sheri B. Doniger, DDS.Sheri B. Doniger, DDS.

It appears that the orthodontist was not very flexible in his scheduling. Her son was given one "later" appointment, but office policy dictated that they are not allowed more than one later appointment in a month. The orthodontist was also not available on Saturdays. She was completely surprised by this policy.

I am sure she received a practice information letter at the beginning of her son's orthodontic journey, where the hours are explained from the onset. Many parents are reticent to take their children out of class for a routine dental appointment, thinking it is not an emergency. Of course, school holidays are filled up a year in advance with many highly organized parents, but for those who do not plan so far in advance (for many reasons), this type of scheduling is difficult.

I understand both sides. Parents do not want their children to miss any part of the school day, as sometimes it is difficult to make up the work. On the other hand, we do have the right to make up our schedule according to our practice model.

The woman did love this orthodontist; he was honest and did not force treatment. Yes, she could have sought out another orthodontist. She did have consultations with a few other practitioners, but she didn't like their chair-side demeanor. Therefore, she selected this dentist on many other attributes, aside from his schedule.

“Parents do not want their children to miss any part of the school day. ... On the other hand, we do have the right to make up our schedule according to our practice model.”

When dentists ask why I continue to work on Saturdays, I answer the same way I did 30 years ago. I love my Saturday patients. They are more relaxed and they are less prone to cancel (although we do have a very strict Saturday cancelation policy). They also tend to refer more patients into the practice because so few dentists do work on Saturdays. This orthodontist in question not only was unavailable on Saturday, he also had no Friday hours (and no associate to pick up the schedule).

Everyone has a practice model that works for his or her office. If you have not been working on Saturdays or included an extended day for at least a decade, chances are you will not start now. Why should you? Your practice is working. If patients are able to accommodate your hours and schedule, they probably are not mentioning scheduling difficulties to their friends and neighbors. As with this woman, she was not "complaining" about this particular orthodontist, she was voicing her opinion about his schedule. But as with any patient, you never know if what they say will or will not affect a future referral.

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 [email protected].

The comments and observations expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the opinions of, nor should they be construed as an endorsement or admonishment of any particular idea, vendor, or organization.

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