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Overbooked: Managing your hygiene schedule when it becomes too crazy to comprehend

Feb. 7, 2017
Nicole Giesey, RDH, offers tips for managing time in the hygiene operatory when the schedule is overbooked.

By Nicole Giesey, RDH, MSPTE

You walk into work with a pep in your step, ready to conquer the day until … you see it … your schedule. Have you ever walked into work only to see a schedule that is humanly impossible to complete. I mean like 20 minutes per patient or, even worse, 15 minutes. It is one of the craziest feelings. You instantly feel panic as you ponder what would happen if all patients actually showed up? How can you possibly see all of the overbooked patients effectively? Here are a few tips to get you through the day without having stress over an issue that is not in your control.

Your schedule when booked by the front desk is not in your control unless you have the authority over your schedule. Often, it is the dentist who controls how often the patients are booked and at specific time intervals. When working in a clinic or a state-funded insurance office, this is often the case.

Out of your control

If your schedule is not at all in your control, you must step back and evaluate the situation at hand. The first thing that will help your stress load is to realize you cannot change anything. Another thing to consider is your expectation of it. If you expect the schedule to look overbooked, your reaction to it being overbooked will not be so grand in your mind. The third rationale when you see your schedule is to remind yourself that you are there to help people the best that you can, and you will. The dentist knows you cannot physically pump out three patients an hour even if they are children. These clinics usually go through a lot of hygienists. Let’s talk about how to help the situation by getting help.

Here’s a bargaining chip. If you see that the place you are working goes through a lot of hygienists and it does not utilize assisted hygiene, here’s how to approach that. Talk to the doctor. Let him know that you enjoy working there and you have noticed that they do have a high turnover of hygienists. You want to help not only his business but also the patients.

If you have enough patient chairs, pitch assisted hygiene to him. Tell him you could keep up with the pace if you had one or two assistants with coronal polishing certification. Your position in the office would literally transform from one hygienist trying to do everything unsuccessfully to a hygiene department which is needed with a volume of three patients per hour. The dental assistants would literally do all of the tasks within their scope, and you would probe and scale. The assistant would go over medical history, take radiographs, help with charting, polish and stay in the room for the exam. Then she would turn over the room and start again as you are in the next room she already prepped for you.

Assisted hygiene is a skill in scheduling but if done correctly will be very profitable for the dentist and very helpful to the patient since their need is being filled. This type of office is not for everyone. It is very high paced and you can burn out fast.

A surprise challenge

How about the office that usually sees one patient every hour and one day you see that the front desk throws in one extra patient for the day? This is a unique situation for the hygienist who is so used to only seeing one patient per hour. Those of us who are used to the fast pace of the clinic wouldn’t bat an eye, but to those who are used to the hourly schedule, this is a game changer for sure.

Here are some tricks to help ease you into a peaceful and successful day. It’s all about time. If you have an eight-hour day and are seeing nine patients instead of eight, it’s all about shaving time. First, in an office like this, communication and a team huddle prior to the day starting is essential. If you usually make the next appointment, let the front desk accomplish that. If you are used to charting on your own, pull someone to help you.

Here’s a big time saver, the exam. If your doctor is running late or takes forever on an exam, have someone else help him chart. What’s his assistant doing while he is in the hygiene room? This is all about teamwork. If you shave 10 minutes per patient off of your day that is 80 minutes you have to see an extra patient easily.

The overall message is to stop and take a breath. Know that you are not alone in this schedule overload and just literally take your day one patient at a time. Communicate with your team and look ahead so that there are no surprises. If you cannot handle a flexible schedule and it is a constant source of stress, maybe a slower paced office is better for you. If your office has an overbooked schedule once in awhile, roll up your sleeves and have a positive attitude. That day shall too pass and your team will see what a positive player you are and your patients will thank you for it.

Nicole Giesey, RDH, MSPTE, enjoys researching, writing, and educating on topics related to dental hygiene. She is the dental hygiene product specialist for Maxill. She can be contacted at [email protected].

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