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Two Women Talking

Dental assistants: Learn how to communicate and avoid burnout

Aug. 3, 2023
Let your teammates know what you need, and ask for help when you need it. And let them know you're available to help also. Honest communication makes a huge difference in team happiness.

Are you really doing everything you possibly can to communicate in your practice? Sure, you have team meetings, morning huddles, and the review you get once a year (if you get it). But is all that really communication? 

Yes, but it’s not enough for most people. Doctors and practice administrators are busy and maybe even overwhelmed with everything needed to run a practice. Many practices are currently short on staff members, so everyone is carrying an extra load. 

In all this busyness, don’t assume your teammates know what you need. Sterilization is overflowing, models need to be poured, lab cases need to be written up, and so many other things. Don’t just expect people to jump in and help. Sometimes you simply have to ask them. Never be afraid to ask for help! You aren’t Superman or Superwoman, so don’t try to be a hero. We dental assistants can’t do it all, and when we try, we burn out in a big way. 

We all say we want work/life balance, but finding it is an art in and of itself. Balance is about finding that happy place in your work that gives you satisfaction, and it also means leaving work at work. When you try to do too much, you get caught up in frustration to the point you hate work and life, and that’s never a good thing. 

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Try these ideas to help you communicate

Write it down: If you’re like me, you can walk into a room and forget why you’re there. You’re busy, so don’t rely on your memory to get you through. Take some time to write down your frustrations so you can talk about them later. What are your biggest pain points? Is it not enough instruments? Is it no communication between the back and the front, or is it lab cases getting behind? You can’t work on a problem if you don’t take the steps to get there. 

Don’t rush: Sometimes we get so frustrated we want to snap! If you take the time to write down your concerns, you can communicate them later when you’re not so rushed and agitated. Then you’ll be able to communicate more effectively. You’ll feel better about the situation if you allow yourself time to calm down. 

Be better: Tell your teammates to simply ask you if they need help. It is said that sometimes people don’t know what they need, even when they need it. So, if you’re getting busy with a project, be sure to let your team members know you’re there and to “holler” if they need you. Sometimes that’s all it takes to make them feel better about everything they have to do. 

Try to lose that sour expression. We can get so focused on something that we don’t even realize we have a very intense look on our face (otherwise known as RBF). What that nonverbal communication gives off is a vibe that says, “don’t bother me.” 

Listen: Yes, really listen. It’s a thing many people aren’t exactly good at. We listen to respond, not to hear, and that’s not how it’s supposed to go. When you have concerns or someone needs you, listen to what they have to say. Repeat if necessary so you’re both clear, and then respond. 

Think before you speak: Yup, we’ve all done it. We don’t listen to the entire message, and we jump to conclusions. Either that or we’re so frustrated we snap a response. Once that frustration is out in the open, it’s out there! Don’t judge too quickly. Digest your thoughts and calm down. This also goes for text messages and emails. We’re often told to write it down and then sleep on it. If you feel the same way in the morning, send the message, but chances are you won’t because you’ll have a more level head. 

We all have “those days.” We’re overworked, and this takes a toll on us professionally and personally. We want to go home to our families without the weight of the world on our shoulders. That’s just not good for anyone. By effectively communicating what you need, what your pain points are, and your concerns, you’ll feel better about going into work each day. 

Don’t beat yourself up. Don’t take your work home. Don’t spend time away from work worrying about the next day. Life is short. Communicate what you need and feel better!