Supporting the Team and Patients through Tragic Times
The morning of the infamous 9/11 attack, I was getting ready for work as a Dental Insurance Coordinator and my then fourteen-year-old daughter was listening to her radio while getting ready for school. I heard her cry out “Mom, someone is attacking New York!” We turned on the television in time to see the second plane hit the World Trade Tower.
In shock, we didn’t know what was happening, but we had to keep the day as normal as possible, so she went to school and I went to work. There were quiet murmurs, and everyone was subdued as we all awaited further news of the shocking events.
One of the patients did not show up for their scheduled appointment, so the Scheduling Coordinator called and left a message on the answering machine stating that there may be a charge for a broken appointment. Later we learned that the patient had a relative who worked at the World Trade Center in New York. It’s a small world, and even though we were in California there were many people who had friends and relatives in New York. The point to the story is that in times of tragedy and unrest, it’s important to stay sensitive to what is happening to the people in our practices as well as in our personal lives.
The times we are living in require all of us to be vigilant, and at the same time unafraid. As the leader of your practice, whether as Office Manager or Dentist CEO, there must be a plan in place to manage the after effects of these terrible tragedies.
To be completely able to leave the emotional fallout on the doorstep when you walk into the office is very difficult, if not impossible. Here are a few suggestions gathered from dental professionals and other healthcare professionals that may help with ongoing crisis prevention.
1. Morning huddles and team meetings are a wonderful time to connect and communicate with the team. Prepare an inspirational quote to read to the group. You can take turns with each member being able to contribute. Here is my favorite site for inspirational quotes: https://www.brainyquote.com/topics/inspirational
2. Provide a leadership session for yourself and for the team.
3. Provide a team retreat which may include some interesting and positive continuing education for the team. Make sure to share meals and conversation together. Avoid highly charged political subjects.
4. Light a candle in the staff lounge area and have a moment of silence for the victims of recent tragedies. This can be a healthy release for pain and sadness that people are trying to stifle.
5. Show appreciation for your patients with a flower or special treat. Thank them for their loyalty and cooperation in keeping their appointments.
6. Be sensitive to the daily news and how it may affect the team and your patients. Offer a warm blanket or teddy bear to young patients who appear to be especially nervous or fearful at the appointment.
7. Sign the team up for an in-house shoulder and neck massage. Many therapists are mobile and can come to your practice when it is convenient, maybe during lunch break.
8. Encourage the team to eat healthy and to not skip exercise. Provide healthy snacks in the breakroom. Exercise and healthy eating can be good antidotes to the effects of stress.
9. Encourage the team to make time for their family and friends. Often people want to hibernate and disconnect when fearful and distraught.
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