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How to avoid the end-of-year churn and burnout

Dec. 9, 2022
For many dental professionals, the holidays are a stressful time at work. Here are some practical tips to ease the end-of-year rush in the dental practice.

When it comes to preventing burnout, we often hear things like “Do yoga, eat healthy meals, and practice proper self-care.” These sound like wonderful recommendations for someone who is not already overwhelmed by their schedule during the holiday season. Recent holiday seasons offer different challenges that we have never seen before. The ongoing pandemic has worn us all out; couple this with the physical demands of our PPE and just the day-to-day grind, and it leaves little room for doing yoga, cooking healthy meals, and practicing self-care. But there are simple ways we can stay in control of work-and-home balance to prevent burnout    

1. Restructure the workload

Mitigating extremely busy times in the office schedule can make a significant difference in your level of stress. More people work from home now so have more availability. Pick up the phone and start moving patients up. Many work-from-home individuals like getting out of the house during the day because they want a break in their monotonous at-home routine.

Patients who pay cash for their appointments don't have to be concerned about their end-of-year hygiene appointments being completed by December 31, so pushing out their appointments into January will not significantly affect them and will make room for those needing to meet a deadline. On the flip side, patients who have twice-per-calendar-year hygiene insurance benefits may be willing to move their appointments a couple of days or weeks earlier.

2. High demand calls for assisted hygiene

Much of the time in a recare appointment is spent on exhausting ancillary tasks such as cleaning rooms, taking x-rays, and scheduling the next appointments. This creates a bottleneck in patient flow. Other team members can help offload these duties to free up more of your time, and you can see more patients in a relaxed manner. Now may be the time to use a temporary dental assistant or hygienist if the demand is there. Luckily, there are companies such as DentalPost and onDiem that can provide temp workers with little to no hassle for your office.

3. Ongoing COVID-19 concerns

When it comes to COVID-19, all of the above will help lessen the intensity of your schedule. Not doing so can compromise safety. Asking screening questions upon confirming appointments, filling out questionnaires, taking temperatures when patients arrive, wearing PPE, handwashing, and social distancing when possible will help keep you safe as well.

If you are missing team members due to COVID-related issues, bring in temp workers who can be used in a variety of ways (assuming you have the PPE to provide them).

4. Every minute counts

You may not get a full lunch break or even half of it at times, but make sure to maximize every minute you do get for a break. Sit outside for a few minutes, take a quick walk, get on your favorite Pinterest page, sit in your car, or close your eyes for five minutes. It may not seem like it will make a difference, but it will give your brain a nice reset.

Putting such steps into place will immediately bring you relief as the end of the year approaches. Sometimes our bosses don't want to deviate from the norm for fear they will lose patients or revenue; however, working in a chaotic environment that ultimately looks bad to the patients and burns out the team will also lead to losing patients and revenue.

Plan, and work smarter, not harder, this holiday season.

Editor's note: Originally posted in 2020 and updated regularly

About the Author

Amanda Graham, BSDH, RDH

Amanda Graham, BSDH, RDH, has been a part of the dental industry for 20 years and enjoys using her experience to bring value to other dental professionals. Amanda became a registered dental hygienist in 2007 and went on to earn her bachelor’s degree in dental hygiene in 2012. Amanda has vast leadership skills and dynamic background in various practice settings that range from private practice and DSO to educational, and more. Amanda remains a dedicated "student" of her profession because she believes an individual skill set is like a work of art, it is never finished. Amanda lives in the suburbs of Chicago, with her family, and enjoys maintaining a bustling work-life balance.