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We ALL had to learn through practice

March 8, 2012
Janice Hurley-Trailor says one thing you should NOT share with your patients is your need for training on a particular aspect of dentistry. If the goal is to project the most professional image possible, then getting enough training and the right training should be office priorities before you take on patient care.
By Janice Hurley-Trailor, the Image ExpertOne time, after some fairly in-depth research, I recommended an orthodontist to my husband who needed some dental treatment. He was going to have his teeth straightened with Invisalign, and it was important to both of us that he be in the best hands. After consulting several general dentists and getting their recommendations, I was secure in our selection. Unfortunately, my husband was not confident AT ALL after his first “hands-on” visit for treatment. We discovered that we would not have assumed we had chosen the wrong office if the team members had had more office training. The assistant who spent time with my husband kept apologizing through the taking of impressions, photos, and X-rays. She would say, “I am sorry. I haven’t had much training in this. I am really new here.”I convinced my husband to stay with our office selection by reassuring him that this was certainly a one-time anomaly and that the highly recommended orthodontist was sure to supervise his case. Happy ending to this story — my husband got excellent care and results, and he has long ago forgotten his first impression. But clearly I have not.
Adequate training BEFORE we are required to spend time with a patient is crucial to the professional image of the office. So many times I have known offices to get new equipment, new software, and commit to new in-office systems without taking the time to train. And that’s what we all need in order to learn a new skill — time.We all learn in different ways and different paces, but the majority of us prefer to embark on learning without the added pressure of a patient in the office at the same time. In truth, all of us learn better when we are not nervous and when we have enough time to practice the same thing over and over again. Repetition is the friend for all learning, and the newer the skill, the more important it becomes to give yourself permission to practice again and again. Whether it’s sanctioned staff time or time you spend on your own before or after scheduled patient care, it is in your best interest to give yourself permission to learn in your own way and at your own pace.Avoiding a less-than-optimal impression can sometimes mean team members will have to speak up to the office manager or doctor as to their need for more training. It can also mean that while you are learning you don’t let your patient know you aren’t completely comfortable with what you are doing. My husband wasn’t uncomfortable with the technique of the new assistant, but instead he became more and more alarmed as her well-intended apologies made him aware of her lack of expertise. Patients want to know they are in good hands and have chosen the right office. My recommendation is that you keep the fact that you are new to yourself. “Fake it until you make it” or “Ignorance is bliss” are mottos that can both apply to situations like this.Another recommendation: Be sure that the person who is training is a good trainer, not just someone who is the most knowledgeable about the skill ... because those can be two different areas of expertise. Haven’t we all been trained on new software or a new camera by the expert in the office who takes it for granted that we know more than we do? I have. If the goal is to project the most professional image possible, then getting enough training and the right training should be office priorities. Until then, speak up and don’t be afraid to practice until maybe YOU will be the office expert. Why not? We all started from the beginning at one time, didn’t we? Author bioJanice Hurley-Trailor is known as Dentistry’s Image Expert on personal presence. She has more than 25 years of experience as a dental consultant helping professionals use the tools they have to gain higher treatment acceptance and attract quality patients. Her goal is that everyone understands how to better use his or her professional energy for success. She is an international author and speaker on what it takes to project professional excellence and confidence so others feel it instantly.