We all make mistakes! Own up to yours and fix them for the benefit of your dental practice

Dec. 10, 2014
Everyone makes mistakes in their dental practices. The secret is to own up to your mistakes, correct them, and learn from them. Everyone in the practice will benefit from this approach.  

I’ll be honest; my quirk is that I have a poor memory. I have to write down everything. I have this notebook that helps me keep track of every single process I learned when I was oriented at my new dental practice.

So I recently referred to my trusty notebook, yet still made an embarrassing error. Fortunately it wasn’t a life or death error, or a financial one. I simply made a human error, like we all tend to do. But I took responsibility, and I took steps to correct my error. If we all would learn to do this, it would make the working environment of our dental offices so much more pleasant.

So, what was my screw up? I was shown how to use the postage meter. I had written the step-by-step process in my notebook, and I was proud of myself when I didn’t have to bother the receptionist about how to use it. But when I used the postage machine, it stamped $63.55 on the envelope. It was supposed to cost 48 cents. Surprised, I asked the receptionist what to do. “Call Pitney Bowles, who makes the machine,” she said. I did, and they walked me through what to do. But when I asked how we would be refunded the money, they said they couldn’t help with that, and I’d have to go to the post office for a refund. Really? Then what was I doing wasting all this time on the phone with them?

Well, I rushed to the post office, and miracle of miracles, it was a slow part of the day. I asked someone what to do, and was informed I would only get 10% or $6.35 back. Really? A human error was going to cost me $57? That’s ridiculous! So I asked for the manager. Even though he had not handled a problem like this before, he took the time to help me bumble my way through filling out the correct forms. When we were done, an employee wrote me a money order, cashed it, and gave me the money. I thanked them, returned to the office, and promptly gave the cash to the office manager. I was thrilled to only be out $6.35.

Why am I sharing this story with you? Because we all make mistakes. The key is to own your mistakes. I botched up something, but I took ownership and saw my mistake through to its solution. That to me is the mark of a dedicated team member. This wasn’t something serious like breaking a new set of dentures or making a drilling mistake. But unfortunately, many people don’t take responsibility for the little things that help an office run smoother, like when the office is down to the last roll of toilet tissue or has a jammed Xerox machine. I think this is a huge mistake. Dental practice team members need to man up. So I’m advising you to try to be a leader and take responsibility for your mistakes.

Laughing at your mistakes can help you cope with them and fix them. Take responsibility for what you do to fix your mistakes, whether it’s right or wrong. That is how we learn from our mistakes. How many of you knew that the post office charges 10% for a mistake on your postage meter? Yeah, I didn’t think so.

If you’ve made some funny mistakes in your dental practice, email me at [email protected] and share what you learned from your mistake. I look forward to hearing from you.

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Lisa Newburger, LISW-S, aka Diana Directive, is not afraid to tackle difficult topics for dental professionals with humor and aplomb. Her entertaining workshops are available for conferences and association meetings. Writing for DIQ since 2010, her “in-your-face” style of presentation and writing will make you smile, or perhaps shock you into taking action. Check out her website at