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The heart of ...

May 1, 2009
An emphasis on communication brings a touch of psychology into our jobs.
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An emphasis on communication brings a touch of psychology into our jobs.

by Tricia Ceresa, RDH

The heart of hygiene. As hygienists, we are the healing beam of light for our patients. We serve as the instrument to get them from a diseased state to health and well-being. We strive to take the uneducated to an educated state.

Isn't this why we entered the health care profession? In my opinion, a psychology degree should be a prerequisite to graduate from dental hygiene school. Our title should be psych-hygiene therapist, given the level of listening and communication that is required for our work to be successful.

The art of listening

The art of listening is an integral part of our job. When you listen, you establish rapport and determine how to serve your patients' needs. I encourage you to find common links with your patients to nurture common interests. Learn to listen to discover the relationship, the trust, and the connection between you and your patients.

Once you do this, you open the door to an honest education regarding the systemic link to periodontal disease. Communicate so that the patient can hear your message and, most importantly, accept what you are telling them. Imagine how rewarding it is to have your patients hear and be healed. When you communicate on their level, the trust builds, and commitment and case acceptance are automatically increased. These are the key ingredients for the art of listening.

The art of communication

As Anthony Robbins states, “The level of success that you experience in life, the happiness, joy, love, external rewards, and impact that you create are the direct result of how you communicate to yourself and to others. The quality of your life is the quality of your communication.”

We must develop exquisite communication skills to deliver a higher level of service to our patients.

Service is the lifeblood of any organization. Everything flows from and is nourished by it. Customer service is not a department; it is an attitude. It is what we give and how we connect.

Without rapport, there is resistance. We must be synchronized with our patients. The DISC behavioral map is a personality profile system that helps to discover and capitalize on unique behavioral strengths. This is one of the first assignments I give my practices as a hygiene coach for Fortune Management. It can serve you, the hygienist, to better respond to the communication needs of patients. Are they visual or animated in their communication? Are they auditory, speaking slower and softer? Or perhaps they are kinesthetic, focusing on emotion and safety.

Even though DISC stands for dominance, influence, steadiness, and conscientiousness, in our discussion here we break patients down into these four main personality types: Director, Influencer, Steady, Compliant.

The “D” Director personality values time and the big picture. Keep treatment and financial details to a minimum with this type of patient. They are driven by the “bottom line” and feel heard and appreciated when direct and to the point. These are people for whom you need to be on time! The “I” Influencer personality values relationships and appearance. These patients are perfect for cosmetic cases and bleaching. They like compliments and acknowledgement, and they are excellent referral sources (so remember that for future marketing). The “S” Steady personality values health and longevity. They are great listeners and typically are not interested in looks. The conversation will focus on a restoration that will last a long time, not about how beautiful it will look. The “C” Compliant personality values detail. They ask many questions and conduct extensive research before a decision is made. They may not sign up for treatment that day, but may do so in the future.

I encourage you to become an expert in the DISC process. You will find limitless opportunities for growth in your personal and professional relationships (and create raving fans in your practice). Take two minutes out of the daily morning huddle to determine patient DISC personalities for the day. Help each other differentiate so you can be on time for the Directors; have articles ready for your Compliants; and have a smile design book out for the Influencers.

The greatest gift I give my patients is to get them to own their disease. We know the percentage of periodontal disease in this country, and we also know the impact it has on the entire body. I honor, respect, listen to, and connect with each patient. I take the time to be with my patients so they can hear me when I am honest about their condition.

It is a gift to connect and be with our patients. We are the healers and the radiant beams of light. This is the heart of hygiene ...