May 29, 2020
by Dr. Angela Mulrooney
No matter how disaster-proof your practice was believed to be, COVID-19 hit and proved us to be vulnerable in unimaginable ways.
The widespread economic effects of COVID-19 took many dentists by surprise. Is it because we live in a safe place like Canada that made us think it was a “them” problem that would stay on the other side of the pond rather than a “we” problem that would affect the whole world? Is it because, for the savvy practice owner, they thought that they would be insulated from anything so devastating?
The virus has wreaked havoc on dental practices–financially, psychologically and in reputation. Practice may never be the same.
The aerosol and spit-filled world you grew your practice in is now a primary concern for patients who have never been so aware of aerosols and spit in their lives.
There’s trepidation heading back into practice – for dentists, team members and patients. Rightly so since there are so many unknowns at the moment about how to practise safely amid the virus.
However, what I hope you will realize is that this is an opportunity like never before to reframe how you look at your practice and how you look at your delivery of care.
The universal precautions that brought us comfort before the pandemic to keep ourselves safe are no longer enough. Aerosols that have always been there are now being addressed. Virus transmission that has always existed is being brought into new light.
It is a costly and fear-provoking endeavour that must be undertaken, whether you wish to or not. You have a choice to do it with courage or to do it with fear.
This is as an opportunity, rather than a travesty, and it will be easier to warrior up during this time if you are able to move forward with courage and acceptance. This will happen through making a plan and taking action.
Let’s build your roadmap to thriving through resilience.
See The Opportunity
For our team members, many will lose their jobs, which creates the opportunity to examine whether they still love dentistry enough to fight to stay in it or to seek out a career change that will make them happier.
For clinics that were struggling, we will see a percentage of doors close, which creates the opportunity to join forces with colleagues to control costs or sell to consolidators to wash their hands of the financial responsibility. This will allow more dentists to focus on the craft they love rather than the burden of ownership.
For our associates, they are going to be hard-pressed to secure an associateship, which creates the opportunity for innovation, shifted mindset and learning new skills to make themselves the most attractive candidate for the coveted and limited associateships that will be available.
For our patients, many will have lost their jobs and insurance, with poor prospects in sight of regaining either in the near future, which creates the opportunity for increased communication. This is an opportunity to get to know our patients better, which will allow increased case acceptance in the long-term.
If you haven’t already faced re-evaluation of your values, now is the time to examine what is important to you. So, what can you do to take advantage of this opportunity?
Cut the Fat
So many practices were overstaffed, overstocked, and over-equipped planning for presumed future growth rather than having what they needed for the present moment. Start the purge. If you don’t need it, get rid of it. If you have too much space, sublet it or get into a cost-share agreement.
So many practices were spread too thin with their offerings, trying to be everything to everyone by offering long hours and skills they weren’t passionate about. Cut away what you don’t like and get to the essence of what works the best for you and what you are most passionate about in practice.
So many practices were chasing the dollar rather than the dream – trying to grow without having a vision that made them excited to go to work in the morning. Work had become empty and a burden. Teams were stocked with those who were there to just do a job but not invested in the practice. Get rid of what isn’t serving you in the practice and focus on building out the dream practice you imagined – making this your renewed vision.
Get Your House In Order
Once you know what is important to you and what you want to focus on, it is time to start getting your house in order. What do you need to do to get to where you want to go according to your renewed vision?
If your schedule was so hectic that you weren’t able to enjoy balance, hire a coach to develop those balancing skills. Spend time investing in your team to take on those tasks that you used to say, “If you want it done right, you should just do it yourself.” Look at what you and your team were doing in a day and see what was really necessary versus what was done just because you always did it that way.
Look at what skills you can be investing in learning as a team to better serve your patients and the vision of where you want to take your clinic.
Start creating systems that make sense to the new way of practice and train those systems until they become second nature. This will make it easier to have patients coming back to the practice and appearing that you are in control of the changed world.
Get The Word Out
Marketing budgets may be blown, but that doesn’t mean you cannot market.
Now is the time to pull your head out of the sand and show your patients and the world what you are made of.
If you have worked on the practice and your house is in order and ready to serve your patients in the new way, start telling that story on your social media. Make it clear to the unsure patient that you have their care under control with the way your practice is running now. Make it clear the direction you want to take your practice and highlight the aspects that make you excited about dentistry.
You have the opportunity to reframe how you see your career.
You have the opportunity to get rid of what is not working.
You have the opportunity to be better as a community of professionals.
You have the opportunity to create more happiness in your life by getting back to focusing on your renewed vision.
What Will You Choose?
You have a choice what opportunities you want to see in “practice as unusual.” Will you fight it – kicking and screaming that life is unfair? Or will you lean into the discomfort and realize that this is your time to discover what you are made of and where your potential in practice really lies?
About the Author
Dr. Angela Mulrooney turned a run-down clinic into a cutting edge practice that was referred to by colleagues for full-mouth reconstruction, I.V. sedation, and sleep apnea therapy. In doing so, she more than doubled her hourly production while working 50% fewer hours at 28 years of age. After sustaining a career ending injury, she decided to turn tragedy into opportunity by sharing her credibility and production-boosting secrets through practice management and social media marketing to help talented colleagues realize their full potential clinically and entrepreneurially.
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