Hurry up and wait!

The issue of punctuality also is extremely important to our patients. It is inconsiderate and unprofessional to keep patients waiting, whether it is in the reception room or in your hygiene chair.

The issue of punctuality also is extremely important to our patients. It is inconsiderate and unprofessional to keep patients waiting, whether it is in the reception room or in your hygiene chair.

Dianne Glasscoe, RDH, BS

Dear Dianne,

What can I do about a doctor who makes me wait excessively long for a hygiene check and causes me to run behind schedule every working day? This doctor is a great boss, but running behind is a tremendous source of stress. It gets so bad that I have been behind schedule as much as 30 or 45 minutes (a full patient), and I often have to work into my lunch hour.

I don`t want to leave this job, but the stress of always running late is eating me up. I tend to be quite punctual otherwise. Short of quitting, what can I do?

Always Late in Lancaster

Dear Always Late,

Your complaint is probably the most common problem that I hear from hygienists everywhere I go. Indeed, hygienists have been known to leave practices for the very reason you mentioned. At times, it seems that our fight with the clock adds tremendous stress to an already stressful job.

During my clinical hygiene career, I have worked with a variety of doctors` styles in regard to hygiene checks. One doctor was so quick to come that you would have thought there was some sort of ejection mechanism in his chair! All I had to do was tell him the patient was ready to be checked, and he would be there in usually less than a minute. This particular doctor had a very "hyper" personality - he burst through the door each morning with a smile on his face and the energy of a locomotive!

Another very good doctor I worked with did not have to be summoned. He could see my patient from his operatory. When I sat my patient upright, he knew we were ready. The patient rarely waited more than two minutes.

However, I have worked with some slowpokes as well. In one practice, I was given an hour with each patient, even children, to allow for the 10 to 20 minute wait for the doctor. It was very tiring to me and my patient, and I considered his slowness to be a waste of good productive time. His general metabolism seemed slow, and he could not stand to be rushed.

Linda Miles, my good friend and a management consultant, says doctors should not keep hygienists waiting any longer than four minutes. Some doctors would have to gulp hard to swallow this advice!

If you feel you are given enough time with patients but find yourself always running behind because of hygiene checks, there is a simple solution. The answer is: interrupted checks. With an interrupted check, the doctor can see your patient at any stage of the prophy. My suggestion for recare patients is to greet and seat your patient, inquire about any dental problems, take a quick tour of the mouth, take any necessary X-rays, and summon the doctor. This will give you and the doctor about 30 minutes (in most offices). Even though you might have just begun to scale and the doctor walks in to check, be willing to get up briefly for the check and then resume your work.

I always say to my patient, "Mrs. Smith, I?m going to stop long enough for Dr. Wonderful to check you.O

I?ve never had a single patient object to this arrangement. If you have taken X-rays, retrieve them at this point (or before you polish) for the doctor to see before the check is completed. Some compromise is involved with this method. First, the doctor may have to look at a mouth that is not completely clean, because you have not finished. Secondly, you must agree to the interruption. However, I will welcome a doctor check at any stage of the appointment if it helps to keep me on schedule.

The issue of punctuality also is extremely important to our patients. It is inconsiderate and unprofessional to keep patients waiting, whether it is in the reception room or in your hygiene chair.

If running late because of the wait for the doctor?s checks is a problem in your office, I suggest you first keep two to three weeks of records. You record how long you waited for a check with each patient of the day. You can arrive at an OaverageO wait. You will then have hard evidence when you discuss this problem with the doctor. However, if you approach this problem with an accusatory finger pointed at the doctor, you can look for resistance.

I have seen practices where doctors are so heavily booked that there is really no time to do hygiene checks. The stress is staggering at times to doctors, especially if they are trying to check multiple hygienists.

I welcome input from other hygienists who have dealt with this problem.

Dianne

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 dglasscoe@northstate.net, phone (336) 472-3515, or fax (336) 472-5567.

More in In-office Preventive