Dental Practice Snafus Part 2: Seizing Learning Opportunities and Celebrating Past Successes
We can’t avoid hitting ruts or low points in our dental careers. Luckily, we can always make the most of difficult situations and come out stronger on the other side by learning from them.
You can read the first part of this interview where Dr. Brady discusses communication issues here.
Dental Dilemma: Loving What You Do and Learning When You Can
Q: What’s one of the greatest struggles you’ve faced in your time as a practicing dentist?
A: For me, learning to enjoy dentistry required getting realistic about the risks and benefits, as well as accepting that no dentistry lasts forever. Every clinical procedure has technical risks and technical benefits, including risks and benefits that are about time, finances, and procedures. We cannot eliminate the risks and find a “right” solution, meaning the treatment that will last forever. What we can do is uncover the risks, understand them, help the patient to understand them, and then manage them as best as possible.
Q: What is your advice for troubleshooting problems?
A: When things don’t go as planned we have the greatest opportunity for learning. First, give yourself some space to separate the emotional consequences of things not working from the technical aspects. Then, when you can go back, analyze the situation and ask: “What would I do again the same way the next time and what would I do differently?” Try to identify the root cause of the issue and then come up with a strategy to correct the issue.
Q: What about dentistry keeps you motivated and inspired to deal with difficulties or letdowns?
A: The upsides far outweigh the bad sides. Every profession is full of challenges and disappointments. It can get easy to focus on those and lose sight of the good things, the things worthy of celebration.
I keep every good note, thank you, and e-mail in a folder in my desk drawer. On the “bad” days, if I need to, I pull out this folder and read the thank you notes. I remember the patient who was over the moon about an esthetic change, who was ecstatic to be relieved of pain, who was overjoyed that we helped them get their smile back to being healthy and beautiful. I also remember the patients we helped through their chemo and radiation, who we made dentures for even though they had stage 4 cancer, but they ate anything they wanted right until the end. All those things make it worthwhile.
What methods do you use to get through tough situations and stay positive? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!