When I was a child, I imagined one day I would be a teacher or a flight attendant. I dreamt of living in downtown New York or Chicago in a loft apartment, either going to my classroom every day to teach young minds or traveling the world on a plane. If you had asked me back then what I wanted to do when I grew up, the answer was probably some variation of these ideas. I can guarantee to you I would not have said, “When I grow up, I want to be a dental office manager.”
I would venture to guess most office managers never thought that they would end up in this role. Heck, most front office staff probably are the same. Unless we grew up in a dental family, we all seemed to just fall into this role. Either we were a dental assistant with a great personality, or a dental assistant with not-so-great assisting skills but better office skills, or (like me) married a dentist. Regardless of the path we took to get here, here we all are. We are in the front of a dental office, and for myself and most that I talk to, we wouldn’t change it for the world! As women in dentistry, we are in the best profession ever. We get to work with a great group of dedicated healthcare professionals and change people’s lives, one tooth at time.
However, there are times when getting up day after day and going to the office can be a bit challenging, and there are some days that we just don’t feel like it anymore. Remember when you first started in this career as a woman in the dental industry, all the excitement of helping patients, learning all the terminology, ridding the world of gum disease and tooth decay one patient at a time? You’re still doing that on a day-to-day basis, so why after so many years is it just not as much fun? There are many reasons why it starts to drag us down: dealing with insurance companies, upset patients with unexpected balances, last-minute cancellations in our perfectly scheduled day, drama between staff, stressed out doctors, etc. Before you know it, you start to dread going in every day and your excitement begins to decline.
So, what can we do to stay positive and avoid creating a feeling of dread about going into the office each day?
There are 6 things I suggest doing to keep this negative attitude in check so that you’ll stay in the dental front office game for the right reasons.
- Remember why you’re in this profession in the first place.
I know you didn’t necessarily grow up planning this career, but this path chose you. You have to remind yourself on a daily or weekly basis why you are in this profession and the important part you play. You may need to write yourself a note and put it on your computer, or join a group of similar people on social media and connect with them. Go to a local chapter of dental office managers to be regularly reminded about your bigger purpose so it will outweigh the obstacles.
- Recognize that all of these things are part of the game.
Think about playing a game. You are fighting against an opposing team to win. That is exactly what we are doing in the office. We are having to battle against all the issues that arise on a daily basis. Winning the game means helping our patients get healthy and generating referrals/reviews that help keep the office healthy (sustainable) as well.
- Don’t take work home.
I am not talking about physical work, but emotional work. I know that’s easier said than done— especially, as in my case, if you’re married to the doctor. But you have to find a way to let work stay at work and home life stay at home. If you carry the stress of the day home with you, you will start to dread going in the next day.
- Take care of yourself.
If you feel good physically and mentally, you will be a better contributor at work. Make sure that you are taking care of yourself by eating as healthy as you can, working out, and doing whatever you need to do mentally or emotionally to be the best that you can be. If you go home and plop on a couch every day, eat fast food, and watch a lot of YouTube, you’re not working to feed the parts of you that need to “refuel” so you can go in the next day feeling your best.
- Talk with your doctor and your team.
Most dental teams don’t take enough time out of the patient’s mouth for meetings to get everyone on the same page. Make sure to have staff meetings and training that helps the entire team learn and improve in their roles, not just you in your position as office manager. When the team is connected and on the same page, you will develop an environment where everyone knows they have each other’s back. Hopefully this will help eliminate the drama that seems to sneak its way into dental offices.
- Find one of your favorite patients and have a conversation with them.
We tend to spend more time talking with insurance agents on the phone than having conversations with our patients. If you need a boost or want to remember why you are doing what you do, spend a couple minutes talking with one of your favorite patients.
Not every day, week, or month will be easy, but you can push through make a difference. I know that it can be a challenge—but if it were easy, anyone could do it! You were meant to be here and this path chose you, so make sure you do what you need so you can continue making the difference that you know you can.
Visit www.frontofficerocks.com for more articles by Laura Hatch.