Ramp up efficiency and decrease stress with better organization

Aug. 25, 2010

By Mary Govoni, CDA, RDA, RDH, MBA

Editor’s Note: Axis Dental invites dental offices and office assistants to release their inner Spielbergs in an office organization makeover video contest! From now until October 31, 2010, dental offices are encouraged to submit videos, music mashups, or show in other creative ways why their office deserves an organization makeover with a chance to win $8,400 in prizes. Office personnel that upload a video to www.burchaosbites.com will receive free T-Shirts with the grand prize winner receiving an Axis organizational system complete with FREE rotary products, 3 iPads for the office, and a Delta Q Sterilization system. Winners will be announced at the end of contest in November.

Watching the popular TV show “Clean House” is amazing, but not in a good way. The amount of clutter and disorganization in the featured homes makes me wonder how these families can function, and what their friends and neighbors think? Although I’ve not seen any dental practices that were disorganized on the scale of the homes on the television show, disorganization and clutter are fairly common.

Patients typically have lots of time to observe the environment around them during their treatment. Be very aware of what that environment says about your practice. Although it may not seem like patients are negatively affected by the environment, it may contribute to their stress, as well as their acceptance of treatment and their willingness to refer patients to the practice. Sit in the reception area and the treatment chairs and survey what patients see. If there is clutter, it needs to go. Clutter is a sneaky thing; if it exists anywhere in your facility, it will eventually spread.

Lack of organization also has a negative impact on efficiency and productivity. Think of the amount of time during the day that you spend looking for something you need to complete a task. The connection between disorganization, increased stress, and lack of productivity is well documented in scientific research. In a 2004 report on “Work Organization and Stress,” the World Health Organization (WHO) cites disorganization and stress in the workplace as the cause of fatigue, inability to concentrate, difficulty in making decisions, lack of commitment on the part of workers, and ultimately contributes to staff turnover, which we know can greatly affect productivity in dental practice.

If you’re feeling the pain of clutter and disorganization in your practice, you may be like the “Clean House” families and not know where to start. How about one room at a time? Block time in the schedule, or dedicate a non-scheduled day to sorting through the clutter and purging anything that hasn’t been used in the last year. Purging can be tough, but very liberating. Tackling the clutter one room or section at a time can make the project manageable. Once you complete a room, don’t forget to celebrate your success!

When the clutter is cleared, evaluate how you manage your instruments, burs, and materials for procedures. I recommend investing in instrument cassettes for organizing instrument set-ups. The cassettes keep the instruments together by procedure for treatment, cleaning, and sterilizing. Much less time is spent on sorting and packaging instruments for reuse and the instruments are much safer to handle. Using storage tubs in the treatment rooms to organize materials and other items needed for procedures streamlines the set-up process. A tub for each procedure should be placed in each treatment room where those procedures are commonly done.

While instrument cassettes have become popular due to the efficiency they provide, organization of burs is often overlooked. Individual bur blocks for each procedure provide greater efficiency and improved infection control. Standard set ups can be configured for the most common procedures, and can be placed in instrument cassettes for sterilization. Extra burs not used often can be placed in separate bur blocks and packaged in pouches for sterilization. The blocks can be color-coded by procedure or type of bur. With the instruments in cassettes and the burs in blocks, cleaning up the instrument tray in the treatment room is a slam-dunk. It is also much easier to work with the OSHA-required utility gloves, since the hard to pick up items such as burs are already in a container that is easy to manage. Once the burs are standardized and organized in blocks, photographs make great references for new team members to help them maintain the organization system.

In addition to organizing burs and other small items in the treatment rooms, storage and organization systems are very helpful in the supply area and lab. Organizers with drawers for individual burs or items that can be labeled provide quick and easy access to these items. Storing small items in containers that provide easy access and visibility can also make inventory control more efficient.

Imagine a day at the office where everything is in the right place at the right time. Imagine that setting up treatment rooms is a snap because everything you need is easy to access and in the same place in each treatment room. Imagine that you can accomplish all this with some simple steps toward better organization. You can make it happen!

Mary Govoni, CDA, RDA, RDH, MBA, is the owner of Clinical Dynamics, a consulting company based in Michigan. She is a member of the Organization for Safety and Asepsis Procedures and is a regular contributor to Dental Assisting Digest. She can be contacted at [email protected].

Editor’s Note: To enter the office organization makeover video contest, sponsored by Axis Dental, please visit www.burchaosbites.com by October 31, 2010.