Coaching Tips for Patients

October 16, 2012

A couple of weeks ago, I had the honor of presenting coaching tips for patients to dental hygiene students at the Florida Dental Hygienist’s Association meeting.   I’m sure many of them wondered about the topic.  After all, mastering the art of scaling teeth is generally a top priority since it’s a necessary element in passing board exams.  Yet as I told them, all of you will learn to scale teeth.   The harder piece to learn is how to motivate patients.

Most of us haven’t received any formal training on the art of behavior change.   Much of what we glean is through trial and error.   And often, it’s easier to figure out what doesn’t work than what does.   Repeating the same information again and again is tiring – for us and our patients.

If you want to gain some new insight into behavior change, I highly recommend the book Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard by Chip and Dan Health.   Don’t be surprised if some of what you learn is counterintuitive to our traditional approach.

One of the best things I learned from the Heath brothers was how to reframe my approach to self-care.  For example, what is one reason we often hear for not flossing?  How about too busy or not enough time?   I know you’ve heard it, and I know you didn’t buy it.

What if you asked your patient this; ‘in addition to tooth brushing, how much time do you have to clean in between your teeth?”  Do you think they would say they have at least one minute or even two?  I bet they would.   So following the Heath philosophy, you would then introduce the product you want them to use.  You might say something like “one product that can be used in one minute is a Water Flosser.” Would you be interested in trying it?

Time is everyone’s most precious commodity and one we can’t get back.  I encourage you to try this approach and share your results.

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Celebrating National Dental Hygiene Month

October 8, 2012

October is National Dental Hygiene Month.   What are you doing to recognize and celebrate your value as a dental hygienist?

Yes, I mean you, Ms. or Mr. Dental Hygienist.   What are you doing to recognize and honor yourself and the important work you do?

Are your struggling with what I just suggested?  I bet you are.  It’s a foreign concept to most of us.  You might be thinking ‘I wouldn’t even know where to start’.

Let me help you.

  1. Know what your production is on a daily, monthly and yearly basis.  Only by knowing how you contribute to the basic revenue of the practice can you successfully position yourself for any type of salary increase.
  2. Track the number of restorative and cosmetic services that you recommend and are completed.  This may take some coordination with other staff members.    Yes, it will further show how you contribute revenue but it also demonstrates that you are team player.
  3. Document your referrals.  This is broader than you might realize.  Ask new patients why their friends or family referred them to the practice. Perhaps you will learn it’s because of you.  Or maybe you recommended someone who became a new employee.  This likely saved the practice from placing ads and/or a prolonged search.
  4. Search for ways to reduce expenses.  Is it possible to order some of your supplies in larger quantities to get a better price?  Often times, we do the same thing out of habit not realizing there may be better, more cost effective options.  Be proactive.  A reduction in expenses helps improve overall profits.
  5. Consider ways to add new dental hygiene revenue streams.  Many people shy away from product dispensing because they are afraid the patients will think they are ‘selling’.  Another perspective to consider is that you are saving them time by having the recommended product on hand for them to purchase.

You don’t need to start with everyone all at once.  I do think that if you do not currently monitor your production totals, this is must.  If you hate math, an Excel spreadsheet is easy to set up and will do the math for you.  As you get more proficient you can add other items to track like the restorative and cosmetic services piece.

Most of us don’t like to think about what we do in terms of money and production.   However, this aversion to budgets and financial realities makes us vulnerable in the workplace.  In a tight, job competitive economic environment knowing your value can make you more important than ever.