I accidentally read an article and research about Aristotle last week. Aristotle was using the word “akrasia” to describe a common state of mind in which someone acts against their better judgment through weakness of will. In my words, when dentists act this way (akratic), they temporarily believe that the worst course of action is better, because they have not made an all-things-considered judgment, but only a judgment based on a few possible considerations. Aristotle was making the point that people who do this lack will power. Could the lack of will power be holding you back from going to that next level of practice?
Could it be that some of us cave into weakness, succumb to temptation, indulge in excuse making, and wind up doing the exact opposite of what we say we want to do? I don’t think anyone is immune to this behavior. I would like to introduce the effect of stress on your ability to excel at dentistry while making the right decisions and embracing a focused plan for success. Kind of a “I will” challenge instead of a lack of will or “I can’t”. Each of these causes of stress tend to break your will power to strive.
In an article in the British Dental Association about a recent survey regarding stress among dentists, general practitioners were experiencing the highest stress levels. I would say after almost five decades in dentistry, I also see that here in the US. Here are the top 5 causes for stress:
- Threat of complaints/litigation. Certainly, this threat is not a phantom occurrence. With over 92,000 lawsuits filed each day in the US, we as healthcare workers will have our share. In the US, anyone can sue anyone with little or no cause. Even complaints to the State Board that have no merit at all must still go through the discovery process and all the way to completion which can take over a year. Today, the average dentist will average one lawsuit every nine years. If you Google “Dental Malpractice” you will find that the first 12 pages that pop up are describing how to “win” a lawsuit and these articles are geared for the patient suing the dentist. Forget the lawsuit threat. What about some crazy patient that shows up but refuses to allow you to take x-rays, fill in their medical history, and are rude to the office staff? You rightly refuse to actually treat them and before you know it, they are spamming every online review site telling anyone that will listen that you and your office is horrible and the only reason they gave you one star is that they couldn’t go any lower. Like it or not we are in a fishbowl, with a consumer that is looking for a reason not to like something. Our patient’s expectations are unreasonable. But in a small, consumer business like dentistry, we have little wiggle room to cull this type of patient. Most of us find there are a lot of them out there. The important thing to remember is that if you concentrate on serving your patients, adapt to an ever-changing dental economy, and continue to stay engaged in the business of dentistry, most of these things will disappear.
- Dissatisfied patients. This sounds a little like number 1 but is more insidious. Yes, lawsuits and poor reviews are terrible. But lurking just beneath the surface of a tranquil practice are those patients who just never come back. In a consumer driven business, our patients vote with their feet. While most will not sue or post a poor review, the ones that leave will be sure to tell everyone they know not to frequent your office. This shows up when you (1) realize that your new patient numbers have been at the same level for 3 years, and (2) that you should need to hire another hygienist but there are just too many holes in the schedule. It’s even worse when the dentist has no idea that their recall percentage is 40% or less. I have never looked at an office’s recall without finding that it is below 50% while the hygienist and the doctor both think that it is over 90%+. Ignorance is no excuse not to know exactly where you stand.
We will take a look at the last three stressors next week. Don’t let stress destroy your will. Until then make sure you “will up” and stand strong. This is how you Summit.
Michael Abernathy, DDS
PS—Ever wonder why I sign off these articles with my personal email and personal cell number? I want you to reach out, call, start a dialogue and consider what you can do now to grow and preserve your financial future. There is a way and it begins with a call and a frank discussion of where you are and where you want to be. That is how you Summit.