These These relationships cause a tremendous amount of
humiliation, pain, and loss of morale. It is impossible to address other practice concerns when the dark cloud of doctor indiscretion hangs overhead. cause a tremendous amount of humiliation, pain, and loss of morale. It is impossible to address other practice concerns when the dark cloud of doctor indiscretion hangs overhead.
Dianne Glasscoe, RDH, BS
I have worked as a hygienist in the same office for the past seven years. I truly enjoy interacting with my patients and the challenges that hygiene affords. However, a situation has arisen that is making me and some of the other staff members quite uncomfortable. The problem is the doctor`s flirting.
About three years ago, the doctor and his wife divorced. Since that time, he has been involved in several relationships. He now seems to be getting a little too chummy with the new dental assistant, who has only been married for a year. She is young, pretty, and quite naive. I fear that she may be setting herself up for major heartache.
The doctor`s flirting is quite obvious to everyone, including some patients. Comments have been made to me outside the office that confirms my suspicions of this reality. It is just a matter of time until the news reaches the assistant`s husband.
Since I am older (and hopefully a little wiser), should I take the assistant aside to let her know what she is getting herself into, or should I say nothing?
Worried in Washington
One of the most disturbing and frustrating experiences for any staff member is when the doctor becomes too chummy with someone in the office. These in-office love affairs destroy morale, lives, and practices.
The scenario is all too common. Doctor is unhappy or bored, the staff member is flattered by his attention, sparks become apparent as physical attraction blooms, and, bingo, you have one or maybe two broken homes and respect that is lost forever. And, irreparable damage is inflicted on the practice.
Several points in your letter are disturbing. You stated that you and the other staff members are sharing this uncomfortable feeling, which tells me gossip is flying freely. The first positive thing you can do is to not partake in any more gossip. Now, granted, this indiscreet doctor has invited the gossip with his behavior. However, he does sign your paycheck. So, as hard as it may be, make this a closed subject while you are with your co-workers.
This young dental assistant, whom you describe as quite naive, is, nevertheless, an adult. She is ultimately responsible for the choices she makes in life, whether good or bad. I`d like for you to consider something - what if her marriage does crumble and she has an affair with the doctor that could possibly end up in marriage? If you advised her against him, you probably would lose your job.
Consider another angle: What if she has a lusty affair that soon wears off? If you advised her against him, she may shout in her scorned fury to him that she wished she had listened to you. Again, you could lose your job. It is never a good idea to take sides against the person who provides you with your livelihood.
In my consulting work, staff members have confided to me about office dalliances between the doctor and some other staff mem-
ber. It always breaks my heart and makes me a little angry at the same time. These rela
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tionships cause a tremendous amount of humiliation, pain, and loss of morale. It is impossible to address other practice concerns when the dark cloud of doctor indiscretion hangs overhead. Yet, people caught in the trap of such relationships seem blind to the damage that is occurring.
Don`t allow yourself to be entangled in something that will ultimately result in deep pain for others.
I Miss the Good Ole Days!!
I have worked as an RDH for seven years. The first five were spent with a wonderful, older doctor who has since retired. The practice was sold two years ago to a young doctor fresh out of dental school.
The basic philosophy between the two doctors is as different as night and day. The original doctor was very nonpressuring and appreciative toward his staff and patients. The new doctor seems obsessive about production and collections. The original doctor never mentioned production. But the new doctor seems never to be satisfied and is constantly pushing me to produce more and to sell, sell, sell. I don`t mind talking dentistry, but I don`t like his high-pressure tactics.
He frets over every broken appointment or no-show patient, even though we have very few. If it were not for the wonderful patients in this practice who feel like family members to me, I would leave in a heartbeat. Do you have any advice for me concerning this problem?
Pressured in Padukah
The problem you are describing is more common than you think. When a practice is sold, there are bound to be differences in personality, philosophy, temperament, management style, etc. In addition, when the selling doctor is loved by the staff, it is extremely difficult for them to "let go" of that doctor. Often, the new doctor has some very big shoes to fill.
It is likely that the buying doctor is under a great weight of debt from college expenses and the practice purchase. This may be part of the reason for his anxiety over production and collections. The selling doctor is in a different season of life with little or no debt. The difference in these two realities definitely can affect one`s comfort level regarding production and collections.
The core of this problem is that you feel you are being challenged ethically. You may feel uncomfortable trying to "sell" dentistry. The very idea can be quite repugnant if you feel you are being pressured to persuade patients to accept unnecessary dentistry.
However, there is certainly nothing wrong with informing patients of dental options available to them that they might not know of otherwise. Hygienists are trusted members of the dental profession. We are dental educators. Therefore, we need to talk about dentistry.
My advice to you would be to take into consideration all of the previous points. If you have a good working relationship with the doctor, it would be wise to convey your feelings to him in a nonconfrontational manner. He may not realize that his "anxiety" is affecting his staff negatively. Otherwise, I don`t see the situation improving.
You have to weigh the positives against the negatives. If it turns out that the negatives outweigh the positive aspects of the practice, it may be time to seek alternate employment.
Dianne Glasscoe, RDH, BS, is an adjunct instructor in clinical hygiene at Guilford Technical Community College. She holds a bachelor?s degree in human resource management and is a practice-management consultant, writer, and speaker. She may be contacted by e-mail at [email protected], phone (336) 472-3515, or fax (336) 472-5567.