An African Proverb states, “Smooth seas do not make skillful sailors.” Just as turbulent seas craft skillful sailors, challenging situations chairside give dentists and teams an opportunity to improve communication and leadership skills. Here are three common scenarios.
After treatment options are reviewed, you ask if the patient has any questions. How many times, though, do patients actually ask questions? Many times patients are confused, but they do not speak up because they do not want to appear unknowledgeable. If you want to invite questions, reverse the way you ask. Instead of asking if someone has questions, say, “What questions do you have?” If patients do not ask anything, prompt them. For example, if the patient needs a root canal for the first time, say, “I know people commonly have questions about root canals. Would you like me to tell you more about the procedure?”
The next common scenario involves patients who consistently put off scheduling for treatment. While it is easy to assume the barriers are money and time, dental phobia is often the hurdle patients cannot cross. Therefore, make sure patients understand you have options to make them more comfortable from gentle injection techniques to sedation. Many patients have no idea that you have great options for making them more comfortable during treatment.
The final issue involves patients who consistently cancel without appropriate notice. These same patients are then put back in the schedule and allowed to do the same thing again. Albert Einstein once said, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Instead of demonstrating the definition of insanity, show leadership and take a different approach with patients who do not value your time. The best move for the practice may be to dismiss the patient. Or, after the patient cancels yet again, put the patient on a short fill list instead of back in the schedule.
Challenging situations provide opportunities to improve communication and leadership skills. Consider how you can turn challenges into opportunities in your practice.