Last summer I wrote a series of news letters on how to get your team engaged. What I didn’t cover was why team members get disengaged in the first place. Many team members start out as highly engaged team members! They are:

  • Happy to come to work and passionate about their career
  • Connected and loyal to the practice
  • Proud to share with the world where they worked
  • In essence your best walking billboard
  • Excited to learn new things to drive long term success
  • Measuring their success based on the team and practice success

Then some things start happening often and the team member slowly changes over time. In some cases rapidly changes. The things I am referring are things that they perceive as stressful. Stress is the leading cause for disengaging. 

5 top stress makers and how to remove them from your office culture

The top 5 stresses that cause team members to disengage are:

  • Schedule is a nightmare
  • Move at Mach 10 speed
  • Kicking the dog
  • Lack of value and appreciation
  • No foreseeable change in the future

This month we will focus on the schedule is a nightmare! In most cases the doctor(s) and scheduling coordinator do not deviously set out to cram the schedule. It is usually the result of trying to schedule to meet overhead/lower insurance reimbursement, more patients wanting to get in than appointments available or emergency patients. In these situations team communication is vital. Weave’s team chat feature can be a tremendous help in decreasing stress due to increased ability to communicate.

Often times appointment times are lessened to accommodate these concerns. The problem is in most cases the expectations for what needs to be accomplished during the appointment are not reduced. If you try to squeeze a 60 minute appointment into a 40 or 50 minute time slot you will run over. Not unlike trying to pour a 6 ounce glass into a 4 ounce glass. The provider of the appointment feels stressed because they know they will either run over and make the next patient wait or get in trouble for not completing all of the appointment expectations. If this becomes their normal schedule they will eventually disengage, disconnect and stop trying. If you want your team to stay engaged you can’t expect them to consistently do the impossible.

The emergency patient. There will be times when you will need to fit a patient in to accommodate their emergency (It is important to establish standards for what constitutes and emergency in your practice. Always error on the patient’s side). If it is not an emergency, schedule the patient when there is adequate appointment time. Inform the patient you will put them on your VIP list and call them with any changes in the schedule. 

It is very helpful to discuss at the morning huddle the best times to work in an emergency. If you do need to fit in an emergency patient; triage the situation and utilize the team if possible. Define the have to haves and let go of nice to haves. Do only what is needed to get the patient out of discomfort and reschedule them for treatment. In some cases the only way to resolve the emergency is to perform the treatment that day. Explain to the patient you will work them in around scheduled patients. Emergency patients are seen after scheduled patients. In rare occasions it may be necessary to reduce the amount of treatment on a scheduled patient to accommodate the emergency patient. Always ask permission from the scheduled patient first by explaining there has been an emergency before reducing their treatment.

Scheduling to meet overhead/lower insurance reimbursement not appointment needs. This is the scheduling nightmare that undermines a team member’s level of engagement the most. What often happens is the practice lessens the appointment time to fit the reimbursement level without lessening the appointment expectations. We are in essence expecting our team members to just work harder and faster to make up the difference. In most cases the appointment time was already filled to capacity with appointment expectations before the time reduction. 

If this is the expectation for your team members… don’t be surprised when they either check out and quit or even worse check out and stay! After all, if it is impossible there is no hope and no reason for them to keep trying!

I do understand that it is necessary to be able to cover overhead and lower insurance reimbursement. However, instead of expecting the team to do the impossible evaluate the appointment times allotted. Schedule adequate time for the have to haves and let go of the nice to haves. If you still don’t have adequate time to accommodate have to haves…add more time. 

The frustration for many dentists is they strive to deliver exceptional care and service yet receive only minimal reimbursement. Exceptional service takes time and people which costs money. Therefore, we can only deliver service at a level that we can realistically afford. Which means we work at a level that the team we can afford can accommodate. It’s time to evaluate the value of being a participating provider for an insurance when it no longer covers the adequate time needed to deliver your desired level of care and service. 

We can remove scheduling nightmare stresses when we schedule accordingly to meet the combined needs of our patients, our practice and our team! It’s a win for everyone that results in raising job satisfaction, patient service and the bottom line!

By Judy Kay Mausolf

Judy Kay Mausolf, owner and president of Practice Solutions Inc, is a dental practice management coach, speaker and author. She coaches dental teams who want to be better leaders, work together better, deliver service with more passion and fun and ultimately grow their practice.
She does this by developing leadership, broadening mindsets, elevating attitude, strengthening communication and developing skills to build happy, healthy and high performing doctor/team/patient relationships!
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