Sheri's Solutions: 'What about this journal, Doctor?'

2013 08 14 15 37 19 36 Doniger Sheri 2013 200

"What about this dental journal, Doctor?" is a question we may hear from a very fastidious dental assistant or manager when they come across a large pile of journals, advertisements, bulletins, old magazines, and other print publications decorating a corner of the front reception area (or the consultation room). Did I say fastidious? I really meant brave.

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

Dental assistants and business managers are great. They make our lives easier and work to create a positive experience for our patients. But, they are not going to readily go out on a limb and ask their employer to clean up after themselves. Although they do disinfect our operatory, sterilize our instruments, and maintain the cleanliness of the office in general, there are a few tasks they do not want to do on their own. Throwing away anything with the doctor's name on it is one of them.

Dentists tend to enjoy keeping "things" even if we do not use them. We all receive several print journals each month, depending on the number of societies you are in and the trade journals you have been subscribed. In addition, if your office is anything like mine, we receive a variety of nonprofessional magazines, numerous sale catalogues from dental suppliers, and advertisements from dental laboratories, as well as mail "spam" from unknown vendors. These journals tend to be moved over to the special pile of "I will check it out later." The problem with this magical pile is that it keeps growing, never shrinking, and it is usually in the line of sight of many patients coming into the dental office.

As you know, financial discussions are carried out in many areas of the office. Depending on the square footage, the patient may need to visit our private office. Aside from a potential HIPAA violation if part of the "disarray" includes any patient information, it is not the best impression on a patient if the area is not relatively neat. The impression of a mess may give the patient an incorrect message of an unclean office -- especially if there are many areas of untidiness in your space.

Spring cleaning is both a necessity and a catharsis. A stack of magazines in the corner of your front desk looks, well, like a mess. Depending on the size of your reception area desk, a small pile of magazines will appear to be a bunch of clutter. Even with a large reception desk, piles of magazines and stacks of yet unseen advertisements appear to be untidy. On the bright side, going through recent to ancient journals on your desk is invigorating. Not because you now have space to add more journals, magazines, and unwanted advertisements to a new pile, but because you have gotten rid of some of the junk in your life. I have no problem wanting to keep old journals, especially my Compendium and the Journal of the American Dental Association. But, the reality is that almost everything is now available online.

Going through your complimentary reception room magazines also is helpful. Magazines should be replaced once the new one hits your office. Women, especially, are not very fond of 6-month-old magazines. Think about it -- if you see the same magazine as you saw at your previous recare appointment, what does that say about the care to detail about your office? If these magazines reach your "I will check it out later" pile, later is now. Or you can take them home!

While we are thinking about getting rid of things, do you have any old, dated technology in your office? A spare fax machine? An old PC that has been replaced but is still sitting in your personal office? Why? Check out a recycle center that takes used electronics (or donate it to a group that may need it). It is only causing more clutter and another space to attract more dust.

Dental patients have been sensitized by the dental media about "clean dental offices." We have heard numerous reports of major infractions of infection control over the past few years. We know that a pile of magazines does not indicate an "unclean" dental office, but it does indicate a messy one. "Mess" is usually equated with not being clean. Patients will find any reason not to come to the dental office. We do not need to give them a reason by having a cluttered front desk, consultation area, or private office.

So, according to the calendar, it is spring. Look around your office. Do you have that special pile multiplying on your desk? It's time to do some therapeutic spring cleaning.

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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