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Reception Area

Editor's note: Look at your surroundings like a patient would

Sept. 27, 2021
Since you're in your office every single day, you might not notice areas that could use some cleaning. Try this exercise, and you might be surprised at what you find.

Do you ever look at your office from a patient’s point of view? I suggest you take a good, long look at your office through the eyes of a patient. I think you’ll be surprised at what you see.

When I visit offices for compliance checks, I ask where their fire extinguisher is. I’m often met with deer-in-the-headlights looks! They pass by the extinguisher so often each day that to them, it disappears and blends right into the woodwork.

The more eyes the better

This is true for nearly everything in our offices. We’re so busy that we fail to see the simple things around us. Walk around the office and make a list of what you see. Have more than one person do this so you can see what each of you find.

Are the carpets and floors clean? Are there fingerprints on the glass? Are the chairs neat and clean? Are the magazines up to date with no pages ripped or torn? Is the furniture clean? If you have a coffee or water station, is it stocked and clean? If you have pillows in the waiting area, are they fluffed several times a day? And it’s important to check your restrooms several times a day.

What about the front desk area? If your team is allowed to have food and drinks at the front desk, how do those appear to patients? Is there a hot mess of paperwork visible to patients or are things neatly put away? Are the trashcans visible, and if so, are they overflowing? Are there tiny bits of shredder paper all over the floor? Is the countertop cluttered?

How about those operatories? Try sitting in the corner where a patient’s parents may sit and look around. Are the cabinets free of clutter? Are the sinks clean? (I mean, after all, people spit in them!) Are the light handles and x-ray units free of dust? Is it dirty under the chairs? Is the rheostat shiny and clean? Are the walls free of splatter?

Now, lie down in the chair and look at the ceiling. Are there water spots? Are there any light bulbs out? Are there any bugs stuck in the light shades? Is the dental light dirty and dusty? Does it have streaks on it from cleaning? Patients may see this as dirty even though it’s clean. Check the manufacturer’s instructions on how to properly clean the lights.

Is your dental chair showing wear and tear? Is the upholstery clean or worn and coming apart? Is the foot protector coming off, or is it fading from cleanings?

Peek into areas just like a patient would when they’re walking around. Is your sterilization area cluttered? Then you might want to make sure it’s not visible to patients. Be sure to check door handles and light switches because they get pretty dirty every day.

The value of a clean practice

The cleanliness of our practices says a lot about us. If we can’t keep our areas clean, what does that tell patients about the work we do?

We’ve all experienced patients who leave the practice and offer no explanation. They see or hear something they don’t like and simply move on. What if some of their departures are due to the state of your office? There are simple solutions to that!

Make a list of cleaning duties and divide them up so that everyone works on some part of the office. Identify the needs of the areas and create an action plan to get things done. Nobody wants to be a patient in an old and dirty office.

Investing in the physical appearance of your practice is paramount to patient care. They know it, and you should know it too!

Tija Hunter, CDA, EFDA, CDIA, CDSO, CDSH, MADAA, is a member and current vice president of the American Dental Assistants Association (ADAA), where she holds the honor of Master. Tija is the editor of Dental Assisting Digest and contributes to Dental Economics magazine. She is the director of the Dental Careers Institute, a dental assisting and dental continuing education program, and the author of seven continuing education study courses. She is an international speaker and a certified trainer in nitrous oxide in several states. Tija was named one of the Top 25 Women in Dentistry by Dental Products Report magazine in 2015. She can be reached at [email protected].