Dental Career or Daily Drudgery? You Decide.
by Sally McKenzie CEO
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Recently, I was sitting with a small group of dentists during the lunch break at a dental meeting and they were commiserating, divulging their war stories if you will. Obviously, in my line of work it is not uncommon to have dentists willingly share their often painful experiences. This was no exception.
The doctors were talking about some major problems they were having in their offices. One of the dentists, I’d say he was probably 45 – mid-career guy – I’ll call him Doc #1, was asking the other dentist, Doc #2 – I’d put him around 55 – should be nearing retirement – about how his office schedules patients. Doc #1 explains that his days are a string of frustrations, stops and starts, frantically running until everything comes to a screeching halt. There’s no rhyme or reason to how his scheduling coordinator is organizing the day. And his practice’s production is nowhere near where he thinks it should be – regardless of the current economy – one day it’s $5,000 the next it’s $1,000. Of course, Doc #2 asks him if he’s talked to his scheduling coordinator and Doc #1 replies with an emphatic, “Definitely! She knows that I want to be busy, I have made that completely clear.” He notes that when he brings it up, things will improve a little for a while but then it’s back to the same erratic production.
Well, misery does love company because Doc #2 proceeds to open up about the staff conflict and collections nightmare he’s been experiencing for the past three years - this has been going on far longer than the current economic downturn. Suffice it to say that Doc #1 was certainly feeling much better about his scheduling woes after hearing Doc #2’s blow-by-blow account of the turf wars and serious financial worries he’s facing.
All the while, I’m thinking to myself “Why are these dentists living their careers in such misery?” Suffering truly is optional. They desperately need the help of an outside management consultant; they need someone to help them identify a plan of action. Otherwise, they are going to be on the misery march to retirement for many, many years.
In nearly 30 years of working with dentists, I know how incredibly difficult it is for them to acknowledge that they don’t have all the answers. They don’t have the training or the expertise to deal with the multitude of issues and problems that come up when running a business. But I also know that once they reach a point when they have had enough, when the thought of walking through the doors of their practice generates so much anxiety and unhappiness, it is often at that point when they will finally seek out a company that can help them realize the dream they had given up hope of ever achieving.
They finally come to terms with the fact that sometimes it takes someone else besides the dentist or his/her spouse to look at the practice and objectively assess what is working and what isn’t, to identify why production is down one month and up the next, to figure out why a group of people can’t ever seem to gel into a team, to discover why collections, patient numbers, and overhead aren’t where they should be in spite of a team’s best efforts.
Yes, it takes a lot of soul searching, but at some point the doctor decides that he/she is finally sick and tired of struggling. She isn’t going to compromise any more. He has studied, read, and attended all the practice management continuing education courses he can and to no avail. She has tried to fix it herself year-after-year, but no matter what they do it seems that the same problems, with the same systems or the same people, continue and continue. When the dentists accept that they don’t need to have all the answers, and they pick up the phone and make the call for help, it is the point at which they begin to build an entirely new practice, and most importantly, an entirely new and satisfying career in dentistry.
Next week, has the time finally come in your practice to make the tough decisions?
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