"Witchy Woman?" "The Bitch is Back?" "Hard-Hearted Woman?" Such enlightening subtitles for an article written in the "spirit of strengthening communications, smoothing over difficulties, and generally enhancing the team spirit!" Regarding the article published in your February issue titled, "A Spicy Soap Opera," one would wonder if the content of the article intended to be inflammatory.
Suffice to say, I am the wife of a dentist. I did not marry a dentist but, rather, a soldier who spent a year in the Vietnam War. He became a dentist at the age of 33 after considering many other viable career options, including continuing in our mutual profession of medical technology. For those of you who do not know, that allied health field requires a college degree and carries a title along with the earning capability of a hygienist.
I know a number of similarly educated wives who work in their husband`s dental office. These offices are among the most successful in our area. The success of these practices is the result of excellent dentistry, proper scheduling, good patient-flow management and positive internal marketing, not the miserly hoarding of supplies and tyrannical and petty bossiness of the wives. Cathy Alty`s (the author) surmised description of the stereotypical dentist`s wife couldn`t be farther from reality. Rather than the bored, uneducated housewives we are painted to be, most of us are former professionals such as teachers, nurses, medical technologists, hygienists, and physical therapists, just to mention a few. The great majority of us are in our husbands` practices managing his front office, implementing his patient policies. Most of us have children and a home to maintain. Most of us balance our myriad of duties with great skill at the cost of personal needs, focusing on the needs of our husbands and children first and ourselves last. In that, we are no different than most of our nondental wife friends who are themselves too busy in their two-paycheck homes to call us and gossip for hours on their or our company time.
I am both amused and irritated, as are my peers, at your summary reasoning for a wife`s need to be a member of her husband`s dental team: "Easier than job hunting," "wife has some mad money to spend," "prestige," "to have more time together," "to keep an eye on a husband who might wander from his marital role or to keep an eye on staff who might have set her sights on her husband - personal control issues." Come on, girls, get real.
About the only honest thing this article had to offer is the assertion that most wives do not enjoy being there in the first place. While it would be easier to work in our own professions and be appreciated, liked and respected for our hard work, we spend the day playing maintenance man to computers and office machines, juggling calls to insurance companies regarding delinquent claims, handling disgruntled patients who don`t want to pay their bills, fielding emergency calls, and managing a schedule to accommodate both emergency and routine visits while maintaining productivity to cover the massive 67 percent-plus overhead most dental offices have to meet.
Mad money? Flexible schedule? Oh, you couldn`t be farther from the truth, Ms. Alty. Most of us don`t get paid at all, but we live well, you see, with our flexible schedules and our prestigious lifestyles. We are the first to arrive at the office and the last to leave, usually after the last staff member has departed, including our husbands. We see him in passing as he hands a chart to us or pecks us on the cheek as he departs, asking what kind of take-out food we want tonight and which errand he can run that we haven`t had time to do.
So why are we there in the first place? Because our husbands asked us to be. He is tired of having his supplies, his time, and his production or collection embezzled. Any office-management consultant will tell you that 75 percent of all offices nationwide have been embezzled in some way, whether it be through accounts payable or accounts receivable, supplies, or simply the false inflation of production. In many offices, the benefit of free services on staff and their families has been used to falsely inflate the production figure whereby the written-off or discounted services are figured in the overall production and bonuses paid from this. This pales in comparison to a roll or two of toilet paper taken home by the wife to whom it belongs in the first place.
It`s teamwork, pure and simple, Ms. Alty. It`s the way marriage is supposed to be. "Family business?" You`re absolutely right. And it is ours. We both worked for it. Our philosophy and goals are the same, and although we don`t agree on every little thing as most of you and your spouses don`t, we are a unit. Those of you who do not like the setup could choose to work in offices where the setup doesn`t exist instead of trying to undermine a solid relationship for personal gain with your counterproductive bickering and petty nitpicking.
Oh, there will always be those of you who have the proper tools of manipulation, charm, and youth who may succeed in ridding your office of the "Witchy Woman," because you have "set your sights on the husband" and indeed he "wanders from his marital role" and divorces that "Hard-Hearted Woman" for you who "understands him better," as you put it. The rest of you most likely will be cheering on the sidelines at her demise. But beware. That chosen one among you - be you hygienist, assistant, or front office - will become us, and the song for you will be, in your own words, "The Bitch is Back."
Editor`s Note: As far as we know, most hygienists are not dishonest or embezzlers. Most of the RDH readers, we feel, were simply stating that a husband/wife team in a dental practice is not always a good business decision. We are glad that it turned out so well in your case, and we hope that your husband appreciates your commitment to the dental profession.