3 Ways to Connect with Fearful Patients
Most of the patients you treat are likely a little nervous, but there are others who are downright scared. These patients would rather be just about anywhere else, and will do their best to come up with excuses to cancel appointments at the last minute and avoid necessary treatment.
Patients become fearful of going to the dentist for a variety of reasons. It could be because they had a bad experience in the past, or maybe they heard a horror story from a family member that they just can’t get out of their head. Their fear could also stem from embarrassment. If they haven’t been to the dentist in years, they might be afraid they’ll be scolded for neglecting their oral health for so long.
Whatever the reason or reasons, it’s your job to make these patients feel as comfortable as possible and educate them about the importance of maintaining their oral health. This will not only help ensure they get the care they need, it will also help you boost practice production numbers.
The truth is, managing anxious or phobic patients can almost be as difficult for the dentist as it is for the patient. These patients can be a source of extra stress, especially for dentists who haven’t had any training on how to care for them.
I want to help you relieve that stress so you can provide these patients with the treatment they need. Here are three tips to help you better manage fearful patients.
1. Train team members to recognize anxious patients. You know how important it is to make patients feel comfortable from the moment they walk through the door, but this is even more important with anxious patients. Team members should be sensitized to the special needs these patients have and to recognize the typical signs of anxiety. They should notice breathing rates, perspiration, if the patient is unusually quiet or particularly boisterous. They should also look for how patients hold their body. Are they gripping their hands? Is there muscle tension?
When team members recognize these signs, they know they need to take extra care to put these patients at ease, whether that means helping them fill out paperwork, assuring them they’re in good hands or simply talking with them as they wait. Friendly, attentive team members can help keep anxious patients calm, making them more likely to trust you once they’re in the chair.
2. Listen to them. This is critical to making patients feel more comfortable and building that all important connection. Each patient has unique experiences and fears. Once you know what those fears are, you can tailor your education to cover their concerns. Show them you care and want to help them reach optimal oral health. This is how you earn their trust, and if they trust you and your team members, they’ll be more likely to accept treatment.
Here are a few examples of questions you can ask:
Address their fears and answer any additional questions that come up. Trust me, this will make these appointments a lot less stressful for both you and your patients.
3. Give them some control. Often, anxious patients feel helpless in the dental chair. They have no control over the situation, which can cause them to panic. That’s why giving them some sense of control is critical.
How? I suggest you establish a signaling system. Tell patients to raise their hand if they feel uncomfortable for any reason. You then know to stop working and address whatever the problem is, whether the patient has a question, is in pain or simply needs a break. Knowing they have some control will make patients more comfortable and more likely to accept treatment.
While anxious patients can add stress to your day, if you take the time to get to know them and address their fears, you’ll be rewarded for your efforts. These patients will finally get the care they need and will become loyal to your practice. They’ll feel comfortable entrusting you with their care and might even refer you to family and friends.
Need more advice on treating fearful patients? Feel free to contact me and I’ll help you through it.
Next week: How to build strong patient relationships.
For additional information on this topic and more, visit my blog: The Lighter Side
Interested in speaking to me about your practice concerns? Email firstname.lastname@example.org
Can Burnout be a Good Thing?
CEO Training Case #CEO786
Experience working with hundreds of dentists to improve their practices has shown me that by the time they reach out for help, some are dangerously close to “burnout.” Burnout defined is physical or mental collapse caused by overwork or stress.
This was the case with “Dr. Hedge” (names have been changed), who had owned a private general practice for ten years and was considering selling his practice unless he could solve some major issues. When asked the following questions, he answered “yes” to most of them.
Ask yourself the following questions:
• Have you become impatient and critical of others at the office?
After reading this list, burnout certainly does not sound like a good thing. So, what causes burnout? Job burnout can result from various factors, including:
You feel like you have no control. An inability to influence decisions that affect your job, such as your schedule and your staff.
Your authority or leadership is questioned. You're unclear about the degree of authority you have or what others expect from you. Even dentists who are the CEO or “boss” often don’t feel like one when the staff has taken control.
Workplace dynamics are out of sync. Perhaps you work with an Office Manager who is the office bully, or you feel undermined by the staff. If you are an associate, maybe your boss micromanages your work. This can contribute to job stress.
Mismatch in vision and practice goals. If your values differ from the way your employees behave in the practice and you have not communicated your vision and mission, the mismatch can eventually take a toll.
Extremes of activity or chaos. When the practice schedule is not managed correctly, you need constant energy to remain focused – which can lead to fatigue and job burnout.
Lack of family or social support. If you feel isolated at the office and in your personal life, you might feel more stressed because you have no one to talk to about your frustrations.
Work-life imbalance. If your work takes up so much time and effort that you don't have energy to spend time with your family and friends, you might burnout quickly. This is especially true if your family puts pressure on you, such as: “You are always late getting home” or “You don’t have time to help the children with their homework”.
Bringing to light the issues and then addressing them as related to the practice operational systems, Dr. Hedge realized that by understanding how to manage the practice and staff, he could be empowered to accept his position as the CEO. He had relied on his staff and they weren’t performing to his vision and mission for the practice, yet he had never shared that with them. He had given up on his practice.
He embraced the Dentist CEO Training and realized that every cause of his burnout was inadequate or failed business systems in his practice. It was his wakeup call, and he was excited to make changes to eliminate burnout and improve his practice.
Burnout can be a wakeup call to change your attitude about what is going on and lead to ignition of another flame. If you want things to change, you must change. If you need to hire a professional in leadership and practice management, do it now or act to make changes in taking back control of your practice and your life. Take more time to interact with your patients and staff with a positive approach to each. Compliments and kind words work wonders. Remember that many people face what you face, and you are not alone.
Want help managing your practice and eliminating burnout? Call McKenzie Management today for a customized business training course.
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