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Sick Child Call In Sick To Work

Editor’s note: When calling in absent from the dental practice causes big issues

Oct. 21, 2021
It's not ideal to call in absent to work, but sometimes this just can't be avoided. If the dental team is properly prepared for absent team members, things will go much smoother.

You’re sick, or your kids are sick and you can’t send them to day care or school, and you don’t have anyone to stay with them. Or a family member has an emergency and no one else can help them. What do you do?

You call the office and tell them you can’t come in. This leaves your team shorthanded, and this makes you feel bad, and it might make them upset. Last week another team member had to take off, and it was a horrible day. Instruments were backed up, you needed to be in three places at once, and you couldn’t even take time to eat lunch. Not to mention you stayed late to finish notes and get everything ready for the next day.

Not going into work creates problems for everyone, no doubt about it. With the dental profession seeing a massive staffing shortage, many offices are already shorthanded. But let’s face it, sometimes not going in cannot be helped! Life happens and there are times that we must miss work.

I can see both sides of this tough issue. Your employer needs you because the office is short staffed. The entire team is needed to function at 100%. When a teammate doesn’t come it, it puts a lot of pressure on everyone else. As dental professionals, we already work in a stressful environment. Having someone call in absent adds stress, and you may feel responsible when you can’t go in. Some employers may even make employees feel bad, as if they or their kids got sick on purpose!

And yes, I know. There are those teammates who call in absent all the time. You know, the ones who don’t come in because of any little thing that happens, and you’re the one left taking up the slack. Every profession has those people, and there’s no way around it. I’m sure by now you’ve figured out how to work around their absence because it happens so often.

But employers are wrong for putting undo pressure on team members who do not call in often and who have a good reason. Those employers need to find a proper way to deal with the ones who call in repeatedly. Every practice should have a written protocol in their employee manual that outlines what happens to people who miss work too often and for no good reason. Not having these guidelines causes frustration with the team members who have to deal with the absences.

The responsibility is twofold

The employer needs to understand that team members must call in absent periodically. Don’t blame all team members for the few who are repeat offenders. Handle each person individually. Employers need to develop policies for calling in absent and what is expected from the team. When someone is absent often, the employer must deal with it. Not addressing it creates animosity among the group.

Adopt policies for days when someone is absent, for instance, if a patient calls to cancel, don’t fill the slot. Don’t take emergencies on this day. Call in a temp (they’re hard to find right now, I know). Absences will happen, so find ways to minimize the frustration for all team members.

Employees must realize that you are needed at work. The dental practice is a business, and that business suffers when you aren’t there. You need to make every effort to show up and give 100% each day. And yes, life happens. So have a backup plan if you have a sick child or some other emergency that comes up. There are times you will need to call in absent, so don’t beat yourself up. If you’re truly sick, stay home! Nobody wants your creeping crud, so stay home and take care of yourself.

Inevitably, life happens and there are times we simply must call in absent. Take a deep breath and know it will be OK. By preparing for those absences, you and the dental team will get through it.

This article first appeared in the Dental Assisting Digest newsletter. To subscribe, visit dentistryiq.com/subscribe.

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 can be reached at [email protected].