Anecdotal Hygienist: Take Note of This

March 25, 2013
In her Anecdotal Hygienist blog, Eilleen Morrissey, RDH, describes some techniques she uses to write personalized notes to patients.

Consider reading: My role as ambassador
Consider reading:Good for a laugh
Consider reading:Misery Loves Company

By Eileen Morrissey, RDH, MS

For the longest time in my practice, I felt frustrated because sometimes I wanted to write a note for a patient to take home as a reinforcement of something we had discussed. It may have been the name of a product and where to find it. Or perhaps a gentle reminder of something I thought would lead them toward improved oral health. I had nothing to write on, and found myself using a Post-it note that I used for communication with my the doctor. Often I just did not follow through at all. As luck would have it, my wonderful front desk administrator enjoys creating things at the computer. She had made clever little signs for our treatment rooms, so I asked her what she thought I might use for my writing challenge. She created a simple communication vehicle prototype. Across the top of plain white computer paper it reads A friendly note from your hygienist! Next to it is a picture with a smiling molar. An 8 X 11 piece of paper holds four of these. I have to admit that when I first saw it, there was something about the friendly note part that didn’t grab me, but I’ve since warmed up to it. The size was perfect, however, and the smiling molar was adorable. Sharon explained that she left the notepaper generic because we have two hygienists in the practice, and keeping it neutral allows us both to use it. I keep these in my drawer and use them constantly. I write my name after the word hygienist so that my patients know who it’s from. (Reinforcing our names to patients can only be a win/win.) My goal for the new year and beyond is to use these notecards as many times a day as I can. My bright note cheers up a generic goody bag. It’s personal and it’s professional, but it comes from the heart of a caregiver who wants to create a connection with patients. This is a big component of five-star dental hygiene practice! I see these notes as a continuation of a concept I’ve written about before, that of ambassadors for our dental practices. It’s walking the extra mile in patient/client communication. The reasons for writing these types of notes are many. Patients are often overwhelmed when they sit in our chairs. If there is a name or idea I want to reinforce, writing it down is helpful. I don’t always have a sample of a product that I’ve discussed, but if I write the name and where the patient can find it, I increase the probability that the person will follow through with my recommendation. I’ve written website addresses on these notecards, and I’ve provided my email address to patients who wanted to follow up on something with me. (I am judicious with whom I give my email address to, and recognize that opening patient communication outside the office is not for every RDH). Disclaimer: I am not promoting this practice. Each of you can establish your own comfort level in this regard. My notes are not limited to the dental world. Some contain ideas pertaining to an individual’s overall health and well-being. I’ve even shared book titles that had nothing whatsoever to do with any dental or health matter. What I plan to do more of in the coming year is expand on what I’ll write in these notes. I also intend to try to create one for every patient, but I recognize that this may not happen. Since I have been writing more poetry these past two years, the idea of creating a clever little couplet appeals to me; something fun and light for a person to find when she pulls out her new toothbrush. The marketing perspective says this is a means for keeping our practices within the patients’ consciousness. I personally think it’s also just fun! There are aspects to our work that can be tedious. Writing notes like these can expand upon the connection we share with our patients. Spread your creative wings and soar like the eagles you were put on this planet to be. Onward we go; it is in our hearts’ core!
EILEEN MORRISSEY, RDH, MS, is a practicing clinician, speaker, and writer. She is an adjunct dental hygiene faculty member at Burlington County College. Eileen offers CE forums to doctors, hygienists, and their teams. Reach her at [email protected] or 609-259-8008. Visit her website at www.eileenmorrissey.com.