Oral Health Group

Embrace the Discomfort

December 4, 2020
by Dr. Angela Mulrooney

I know we are all getting tired of talking about COVID-19, however, COVID-19 is here. COVID-19 is putting a wrench in the perfect plans we had set out when 2020 started. So, what are you going to do about it? Are you going to sit in the corner and lick your wounds, or are you going to take action and make the most of a situation that was unexpected but has given us the biggest opportunity to grow our brands in dentistry and advance the industry as a whole?

How you handle the struggle speaks to what your brand is made of. If you try to cling to the past and operate the way you’ve always done, you will be seen as a has-been. Your patients, your team, and the general public are watching. It is your moment to shine or decline. Take a minute and reflect on the kind of brand you want to be known for.


You have a choice in how you perceive the experience you are going through and for those that are not just surviving, but thriving in practice during this chaotic time, they are doing three things well.

First, thriving practices have developed a ferociously opportunistic mindset.

Second, thriving practices have taken the opportunity to redesign their life.

Third, thriving practices have embraced the hard lessons of the pandemic to build resilience on many levels for the potential chaos that is yet to come.

Here’s how they have done it.

Ferociously opportunistic mindset
Let’s be honest; no practice has felt comfortable since the pandemic started. There has been fear, uncertainty, and anxiety like never experienced before due to lack of research about the virus, changing protocols, and general fear in the public, to name a few. The practices that have thrived have acknowledged how they felt and forged ahead anyway. They have leaned into the discomfort knowing it is the only way to grow. They have shifted their perspective from anxiety to opportunity, realizing the chaos created opportunity in everything. Most importantly, it sparked an evolution in patient care and technology use.

The clinics that have shone the brightest during the pandemic have transformed at a rapid rate. They have brought in new technology to ensure patient safety, they have revamped their practices to meet new protocols without grumbling, they have leveraged online teledentistry platforms and social media to stay connected with their patients in ways we never fathomed.

Before the pandemic, when most practitioners heard the word teledentistry, they scoffed as it seemed ridiculous since dentistry is a hands-on modality. However, the pandemic pushed us to realize that telehealth platforms were useful for certain parts of the care journey delivered. Parts such as new patient interviews, emergency triage, and even treatment conversations and coordination.

The platforms were not only useful, they increased efficiency, decreased patient travel time, and reduced patient time in the practice. Patients were not only impressed with how these practices
levelled up their brands, they were thankful for the increased efficiency in accessing aspects of their care.

Stepping into opportunity is not easy because it is new, unexplored territory. Being on the cutting edge of innovation is scary because you might be wrong. But what if you are right? Embracing opportunity – by stepping out of fear and leaning into the chaos – changes how your brand is perceived by patients, team members, and the general public. It also lends to being able to redesign your life because of the opportunity.

Redesign your life
Ideas of massive change that were being tinkered with, but not acted on, before the pandemic are now being acted on and are having a widespread impact on the industry. The shutdown sat everyone down in front of an intimidating metaphorical mirror to reflect on the life we were living. Did you have enlightening moments during the shutdown about what you do and don’t want your life to be like?

Did you realize you were on the hamster wheel chasing things which quickly became trivial once you were forced to sit on the sidelines and reflect on where you had been, where you are now, and where you want to go?

Team members and dentists alike had lifechanging realizations which are coming to light in the current transformation of our industry as people are taking corrective action on these realizations. These realizations are reflected in modifications to care, lack of team member availability, and practices considering to sell or retire prematurely.

There has been a switch to emphasis on family and balance, one that allows more accommodation of work from home scenarios where possible. Practices have moved to embrace what they are passionate about with care and are shifting the focus of their practice to said passion. This has caused alignment, and sometimes misalignment, of team members with the newly fueled brand vision of the practice which can allow the brand to thrive.

Even though change is challenging, it allows you to evolve and redesign your life. It allows you to look at what is important and amp it up while eliminating what is not. It allows you to make decisions you wouldn’t make if nothing had shifted to make you uncomfortable in the first place.

The discomfort you are going through right now is your opportunity to not only redesign your life and practice, it is your opportunity to build resilience for the next phase of your career.

Build resilience
Resilience is something we all need, but never want to go through the process to develop it. Resilience comes from seemingly insurmountable emotional, financial, and professional challenges. When the pandemic hit, many questioned if they were tough enough to survive the unknown. They wondered if the decisions of the past had undermined their brand’s ability to be sustainable in the unexpected chaos.

Most practices are still standing and those that are may have incurred a few war wounds, but the scars developed toughen them against the future chaos that will inevitably come.

The pandemic created resilience in these brands by showing holes in the way that they practiced. It addressed issues that had always been there. It opened their eyes to how technology could insulate them against not being able to physically be in front of patients and how this technology could become a mainstay for care and efficiency. For those who are embracing the innovations made possible, they are planning to thrive and continue with the technologies, some of which were originally thought to only be a temporary fix.

The most resilient practices have embraced innovation to partially solve the staffing shortage the pandemic caused. Instead of staying uncomfortably understaffed and just grinning and bearing it, they have taken action to accommodate the change in the workforce.

For roles where a team member doesn’t have to be physically touching patients or instruments, thriving practices shifted their mindset from the old way of employment where you had to be in the
practice to earn a paycheque and embraced the idea of working from home. With support staff being primarily female, many team members had to bow out of returning to in-clinic work to provide childcare to their families as well. For all industries, workers with families were in an even tougher situation because of schools and daycares being shut down too.

The discomfort caused by the pandemic, the war that was waged on our industry and in our minds, has allowed new leaders and thought processes to emerge. It has fueled renewed vision, smarter decisions, efficiency in practice, and passion for patient care. The chaos has set many practices on a path they didn’t choose but are grateful for walking now that the dust has settled, and they can see the benefits to their brand’s innovation.

Change is challenging especially when it is forced upon us unexpectedly. The most important part of going through change though, is realizing, even though you may have hated every moment of it, it has enriched your brand forever.

As we finish out 2020 and prepare for 2021, it is time to reflect on the benefits of 2020 to your brand. What opportunities came out of the chaos for your brand to level up?

What are the opportunities your brand is still yet to embrace?

What are the realizations you had about the brand you built which you want to continue to move toward redesigning your life for the better because of them?

What resilience did you and can you continue to build into your practice’s brand and your career so you are better prepared for the next time chaos strikes?

This is not the last struggle our industry is going to endure. Yes, it was massive and disruptive, but it is guaranteed there will always be more struggles to come. Take stock of what you have learned, and how it has fueled and made your brand stronger. Bear the war wounds of 2020 with pride because, in the end, they may truly be the best thing that ever happened to your brand.

Let the lessons fuel you to make your career, your brand, and your industry better as you bravely look forward to 2021, ready to make it your best year yet!

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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