Self-reflection is a common undertaking during this time of the year. While deciding on next year's resolutions, we compile a list of things that we want to accomplish, areas in our lives we want to produce more (and not just monetary), as well as tons of silent promises we make to ourselves. During your planning for professional goals during 2003, please consider these words, "Seek first to understand, then be understood." The words are the "fifth habit" from the acclaimed book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey.
Recent results from a "loyalty survey" given by the Crown Council (www.crowncouncil.com) to its members clearly showed that appreciation and respect was on top of the list as reasons why team members stayed with a practice (employee longevity). When speaking with hygienists, I have found this to be true. Hygienists often feel that being respected and valued is worth more than an extra 25 cents per hour in their paycheck. As a result, hygienists remain loyal to the doctors and practices that boost their self-image.
Well, doctors want to feel appreciated too. When was the last time you patted your doctor on the back and said "nice job," or, "I realize that you had your hands full with Mr. Crankypants this morning, and I appreciated that you did not make me wait for my hygiene exams." On a daily basis, discover ways that you can genuinely say, "thank you." Once you start to recognize and appreciate the accomplishments of your employer and other team members, you begin to show a willingness to validate and honor people.
An additional way that you can honor and not diminish your employee or teammates is by getting in touch with what jazzes them about dentistry. By understanding their goals, you begin to lead the office away from the walking-on-egg-shells atmosphere toward making a shift to true "team spirit" environment.
How do you find the time for this interpersonal connection while you are roller-skating from patient to patient? In your own way, simply invite your doctor out to lunch or for a coffee after work. The top three reasons the majority of hygienists want to meet with their employers are more money or more time off, announcing pregnancy, or quitting.
These reasons are not exactly relationship-building discussions. Requesting a meeting that does not involve "bad news" speaks volumes about your new level of commitment to understanding the doctor's concerns or opinions on any number of professional topics.
As for your colleagues within the office, take the lead and organize a "team acknowledgement" luncheon. This may surprise them and some may question your motives. But assure them that your goal for this meeting is only to show how much you appreciate all that they do for your hygiene department. Buy pizza for the office. As a caveat, while you have their attention, perhaps open up the discussion to answering any hygiene-related questions. Does the assistant understand why you use a certain type of fluoride? Does the office manager understand the sequential steps and time frames involved in nonsurgical periodontal therapy? This open exchange provides the opportunity to communicate all of the exciting changes occurring in hygiene. Since hygiene is your passion, this education of the office team prepares them with the appropriate response to a patient's hygiene question. Your team will help support the importance of hygiene services and products among your patients.
This connection with your employer and team can, at first, cause butterflies in your stomach or your knees to knock. But being paralyzed by your own fear of what others may think or say is not a good enough reason to not try to understand others. Simply say, "Dr. HappyTooth, I recently attended ..., heard about ..., or read ..., and I would like to schedule a time when we can discuss this and some of the other new developments presented in the dental publications. Are you available Tuesday during lunch or after work?"
To help bridge some of the initial conversation gaps, I briefly list below the results of four research papers published in 2002 that serve hygienists, doctors, and clinical assistants. These may be areas to jump-start the conversations:
• Whitening: Excessive whitening with 30 percent hydrogen peroxide can produce enamel micro-defects. Kwon YH, Huo MS et.al Effects of Hydrogen Peroxide on Light Reflectance and Morphology of Bovine Enamel. Journal Oral Rehabilitation 2002; 29:473.477.
• Shade analysis: Curing effects the shade of the composite. When selecting a shade for the smile area, cure the composite first to determine the post cure shade and then decide on the final shades. Paravina RD, Ontiveros JC, Powers JM. Curing-Dependent Changes in Color and Translucency Parameter of Composite Bleach Shades. Journal Esthetic and Restorative Dentistry 2002; 14 (3): 158-166.
• Periodontal: Localized drug-delivery systems include tetracycline fibers, metronidazole gel, minocycline ointment, chlorhexidine chips, minocycline microspheres, and doxycycline hyclate in a resorbable polymer. They have been developed as monotherapy and as an adjunct to mechanical debridement. Donley TG. A Modified Placement Technique for Local Delivery of Doxycycline Hyclate Gel in the Management of Periodontics. Practical Procedures and Aesthetic Dentistry 2002; 14(2): 165-168.
• Fluoride: Fluoride varnishes can be used to control secondary caries around the margins of restorations. Fontana M, Gonzalez-Cabezas C, et al. Inhibition of Secondary Caries Lesion Progression Using Fluoride Varnish. Caries Res 2002; 36 (2): 129-135.
As for as my professional goals in 2003, my passions stem from three sources:
• The ever-increasing opportunities to elevate hygienists beyond the stereotypical "cleaning lady syndrome"
• Uniting dental teams to best serve their patients
• The balancing of hygiene and restorative dentistry
Will all my efforts be without fear or understood? Probably not. As I often remind myself and thusly encourage you to remember, if a misfire occurs with your doctor or a colleague next year, keep in mind the analogy of a balloon in the air — flying freely in the sky. At first, when the string was cut, the balloon was probably hurt. But look now at how high it soars!
Kristine A. Hodsdon, RDH, BS, is a coach with Hygiene Mastery, as well as an international speaker, author, and software developer. She is the author of Demystifying Smiles: Strategies for the Dental Team. The book is available online at www.pennwell-store.com. She can be contacted about speaking or coaching at (888) 347-4785 or by e-mail at kahods [email protected]. Visit her on the Web at www.hygienemastery.com.