2.9.07 - Issue # 257 Forward This Newsletter To A Colleague

Jean Gallienne RDH BS
Hygiene Consultant
McKenzie Management
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Managing Your Time Wisely

Hygiene appointment times…is it 60 minutes? 50 minutes?  40 minutes?  Is every patient the same time?  And when you really think about it……how can every patient be for the same time?  Patients and treatment needed are not created equal.  But you have taken the time to calculate exactly how many ten minute units the hygienist needs in order to provide quality of care, and see as many patients as possible in a day in order to meet your goal.  If only the schedule were that easy. Not only do we have the gaggers and the constant expectorators, but we also have the ones that need to go to the restroom in the middle of the procedure and let’s not forget those times when a patient decides to not only update their health history but also tell you about every moment in their life leading up to the health history that you just need to get recorded into their record.  Don’t get me wrong…we all love our patients, but we are on a time schedule and we do have a goal to reach.

It is a fact that most recent graduates of hygiene school, as is true with recent dental graduates, are generally slower than veterans. Time and motion efficiency then becomes a management concern of both the doctor and hygienist.  Unfortunately, the focus in school is quality, as it should be, but time is a critical factor that needs to be addressed once you are practicing hygiene.

As the Hygiene Director for McKenzie Management, I believe hygienists should have flexibility and know how to make it work when it comes to their schedule. Good time management during the hygiene appointment by the hygienist is very important to not only a productive day, but also a less stressful day for other team members, the doctor and patients.  Running behind in schedule is not positive.  Going to the reception area to greet the next patient that was supposed to be in your chair 30 minutes ago is stressful.  You see them firmly place the magazine in the rack and follow you back and you are apologizing for seeing them late.  Tension between you and the patient does not make for a pleasant experience.

Just today, a patient took ten minutes to dig out of her purse a list of medications she eventually found in her wallet. Of course I needed them or I would not have had the ability to update her medical history accurately. Instead of just sitting there in frustration while the patient looks for the list, see what could you have done or rather what did you do? 

My recommendation is that the hygienist proceed with those duties that do not involve the patient. For instance:

  • Opening the package of instruments
  • Placing the disposable air water syringe tip and saliva ejector
  • Putting on your glasses, and mask
  • Entering any other information in the patient’s record that you can
  • Reviewing over the patient’s treatment plan and casual discussion

Meanwhile, the patient will continue to look for that tiny medication list that we need before starting the actual invasive treatment scheduled for that day.

If your office protocol is to take blood pressure, before starting the hygiene appointment and the patient’s blood pressure is too high to begin treatment, the hygienist may want to proceed with the same duties above while you wait for the patient’s blood pressure to be appropriate to start treatment. This is one good reason to take the blood pressure before the x-rays. That way the hygienist can take the x-rays, give oral hygiene instruction and/or perform an oral cancer exam while giving the patient’s blood pressure time to decrease.

For those of you that work in states where the doctor has to come in and do the anesthetic, going over oral hygiene instruction, and answering any questions the patient may have is a great way to be productive while waiting for the doctor. You may even want to consider scaling supra-gingival in the meantime. Then, as soon as the patient is numb, you can start immediately in the deeper pockets where you really want to spend a good portion of your time.

Even with all of the above information, the number-one thing hygienists can do in order to manage their time is to have sharp instruments. Not only will sharp instruments help with time management, it will also help with patient and operator comfort. Sharp instruments help reduce the amount of working strokes needed to effectively clean an area.

Instrument choice and sharpness is so critical when it comes to time management and performing quality of care. Utilize your time wisely. There is always something that can be done during a time that may otherwise be thought of as downtime. Flexibility with the order of events in the time allotted will help to reduce stress for the entire office.

Interested in knowing more about how to improve your hygiene department? Email hygiene@mckenziemgmt.com.

Interested in having Jean speak to your dental society or study club Click Here.

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