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Thursday Troubleshooter: Dental office manager fed up!

April 13, 2017
Is this dental office manager suffering from burnout? She's tired of getting the blame, tired of dealing with cranky patients, and wondering if she needs to move on.

Do you have a tough issue in your dental office that you would like addressed? Each week the experts on Team Troubleshooter will tackle those issues and provide you with answers. Send questions to [email protected].

How do I determine if I have job burnout at the front desk? I can't figure out if people are just more demanding, less accountable, or just have downright nasty temperaments. I've been in the field for 30 years and I just can't believe the way people talk to the front desk person with no respect, demanding that tasks be done for them. Then of course there’s the blame game when insurance doesn't pay or the doctor or hygienist doesn't explain treatment thoroughly, and I also get that look when I’m trying to schedule someone for their gum disease issues. Many days I wonder if I’ve just had enough. I love dentistry but I’m really starting to hate the patient contact at the front desk. Any comments or suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Thank you!

ANSWER FROM LAURA HATCH, founder of Front Office Rocks:
I am sorry to hear that you’re feeling this way and I hope that you can find a way to get your excitement back about your job and our industry.

I’m going to start by asking, do you think it’s you or do you think it’s others? I know that might be hard to figure out, so my suggestion is to ask yourself, “Are just a few people getting on my nerves, or does everyone rub me the wrong way recently? Am I getting frustrated with certain things that people are doing, or does pretty much everything they’re doing seem annoying?”

I would suggest considering these questions and my thought is: If everyone is annoying you most of the time, then it’s a personal issue you have to work on. If it’s a couple of people over a few issues, then you should address it with those people.

If it’s the latter, I suggest that you write down who it is and what they’re doing. If it’s coworkers, list the things you think they do a great job on, and list the things that bother you about them. Then have a discussion with them and share both the good and the bad. Maybe they don't even know that they’re doing something and by discussing it, you can help them realize they might have picked up some bad habits along the way and that what they’re doing is not productive or helping the team.

If it’s patients that are annoying you, then you have to take a step back and recognize that they’re the ones keeping us employed, and unless someone is a patient that really shouldn't be in your practice, you just have to suck it up and deal with them. This is part of customer service. However, you can figure out who it is specifically and either ask other team members to deal with them for you when they’re in the office, or at least put on your guard when you deal with them so you can try not to let them bother you.

If you decide during this analysis that it’s pretty much everyone, all the time, then you might determine that it’s you and you’re feeling burned out. The first thing to note is that this happens to most people at one time or another, especially when they’ve been in the same position or environment for a long time. Trust me, ask others and they will tell you the same thing. This is when you have to decide what to do. Your negativity is probably showing and does not help you or your office in any way. You need to decide if you’re willing to do something to get rid of it or if maybe it’s time for a job change. If you make the decision to do something about it, then I suggest that you do something for personal growth. Invest in some training, such as Front Office Rocks, to remind yourself why you’re in this industry and to get customer service back as a priority for your job. You could also read some books that might motivate you, or consider outside hobbies that help you balance your work life and your personal life.

Remember, many weeks you spend more time at work than you do at home. You deserve to enjoy what you do for a living, and figuring out what it is specifically that’s bothering you and taking the time to fix it will definitely be worth the investment. Good luck!

ANSWER FROM KYLE SUMMERFORD, Editor of Dental Assisting & Office Manager Digest, and founder of DDSGuru:
Job burnout occurs more frequently than you may think, especially for those working in dental customer service. At times many of us might feel stressed and upset, like it’s time to give up. It’s imperative that you take a look at the big picture of your office's daily routine. Maybe it's time to make some changes.

It’s important to understand that you can't change others but you can change the way you react to things. Never allow anyone to point a finger at you or others for mistakes or incidents. I always say, "Take ownership for your faults." Others should do the same but the truth is you can't change other people. Most people are set in their ways.

Take time to analyze the situation by assessing who and what could be causing you to feel this way and why. Then think about what you can control and what you can't control. Don't take things too much to heart. Instead create accountability by adding some new forms to your new patient packet.

As for making changes, here are a few for you to consider: implement office protocols and new routines with your staff; use insurance verification forms to ensure procedures are covered, use payment agreement forms to explain financial responsibility should insurance not pay; and create a better structured organization and transparency.

I sure hope this helps. Good luck!

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Do YOU have a tough issue in your dental office that you would like addressed?

Send your questions to [email protected] for the experts to answer. Responses will come from various dental consultants, as well as other experts in the areas of human resources, coding, front office management, and more. These folks will assist dental professionals with their various issues on DentistryIQ because they're very familiar with the tough challenges day-to-day practice can bring.

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About the Author

Team Troubleshooter

This weekly column on DentistryIQ features questions from everyday people who work in dental practices, who have issues they would like addressed by the experts. Those who regularly take the time to answer questions include Rebecca Boartfield, Patti DiGangi, Dr. Chris Salierno, Laura Hatch, Karen Daw, Jill Townsend, Lisa Marie Spradley, Shelley Renee, Judy Kay Mausolf, Robin Morrison, Paul Edwards ... and the list is growing.

Send your question or issue for an expert to address to [email protected].. You'll be glad you did.