Fisher Day Huddle

4 steps to improving the dental team’s resilience

Jan. 19, 2015
Dental teams should perform and produce well on a good days in the office. But you can measure a dental team's true performance on how they handle rough days full of emergencies and unexpected occurrences. Here's how you can help your coworkers reach their potential.

How a team performs each day is one thing, but how they perform in times of crisis is quite another. When everything is running smoothly and everything is going as scheduled, a team performs well. But as we know in dental world, the schedule by the end of the day rarely resembles what it did in the morning. Things happen. There are emergencies, cancellations, team members who call in sick, and those legendary days when everyone is extremely busy with four emergency calls, and the autoclave goes down. A true measure of how well a team performs can be evaluated on those legendary days.

Here are four easy steps that will help the team improve their resilience: 1. Make sure the whole team understands a common goal – This can be anything from getting through the day, to achieving production goals. Also, remember that this goal can change daily. On a very busy day when some team members are absent, the goal might shift to just completing all scheduled treatment that day.

2. Have a morning huddle – This is essential on days when unexpected changes happen. Maybe you’re down a team member, or there are five messages on the machine about emergency appointments today. Sitting down with the whole team and plotting out a plan to successfully get through the day is crucial. Otherwise some people know what’s going on and others are surprised to see extra patients in the waiting area. It never looks good for any member of the team to appear surprised when they see a patient, unless of course that patient is a true walk-in.

3. A highly trained, self-reliant team is a beautiful thing – The team’s main goal each day is to provide patients with high quality care. When the team is in place and understands the common goal and how to achieve it, there will rarely be major problems when crisis strikes. If there are new members on the team, the senior members should help pull the day together. In these cases it’s usually you, the office manager or dental assistant (or even both of you together) the dentist turns to in order to keep things running smoothly. You’re the team members who are able to handle things with grace. You don’t have to be constantly supervised because you already know what it takes to get things done. On crisis days, staff members will often look to you to lead the team. You need to be able to effectively delegate the tasks that need to get done, as well as the ones that can wait. Knowing the team is in good hands will allow all team members to perform their duties with confidence.

This last step can be considered a long-term goal for the practice. 4. Help foster a culture that encourages the team to resolve the issues at hand every day – Here is a good example of a successful business. The business philosophy at UPS is to get the job done by doing whatever it takes. When an obstacle arises, a team figures out how to handle it. Hurricane Andrew devastated Florida’s east coast in 1992. Many people were displaced from their homes and lived in their cars. UPS drivers were still able to sort packages at a diversion site and make deliveries, even to people living in their cars. Not only is this a great example of improvising, it gave people in the area a sense of meaning in so much destruction.

Try to do everything a great team member should do. Set a great example, keep your word, and build the mentality that you’re a member of a team trying to reach a common goal. If there’s someone on your team that continually exhibits a negative attitude, make it your job to set an example of a positive attitude. Make no mistake, if you ignore the person’s behavior it might go away, but more likely the person will bring the whole office down with a bad attitude. One bad apple truly can spoil the whole bunch.

Hopefully taking these steps will help you set a good example for the team, and inspire your fellow team members to strive for success.

ALSO BY BRITTANY YOUNG:Tips for training your new dental team member
A 4-phase process to make interviewing dental practice applicants easier
Phone scripts make things run more smoothly for the dental office and bring in new patients

Brittany Young is the practice manager at Weissburg Endodontics in Laurel, Maryland. She is a member of the American Association of Dental Office Managers, and is currently pursuing an associate degree in business management. Read her blog, You Know the Drill.