Maintaining a Great Work-life Balance as a Dentist

by Dr. Sharda Patel

Most professionals in today’s busy world face a challenge when it comes to maintaining a healthy work-life balance. More so, if you run a dental practice! You need to juggle offering high-quality dental services and the demands of running a business as well as finding some me-time.

A quick life audit will tell you if your work-life is indeed in balance. Consider asking yourself some basic questions:

  1. Do you have poor health?
  2. Do you find it difficult to sleep at night?
  3. What is the quality of your relationships?
  4. Does life feel like all work and no play?

If your answer to the above questions is yes, it is about time you relook at your life to be able to bring about a balance between work and other aspects of your life.

A word of caution here though – even before one starts to look at tips for maintaining a good work-life balance, it is important to realize that work and life (especially entrepreneurial life such as what your dental practice brings) are very closely intertwined. For one, it is very difficult to separate the two and hold them in some kind of balance. If you try to do that, you are setting yourself up for failure. Instead, it will work far better if you accept the fact that you need to take a holistic view of work and life. Finding a rhythm that works for you as the two parts blend together will be far more realistic. There will be days when you will need to put in long hours at your dental practice, as long as there are days when you can spend time with friends or family without stressing about work.

That said, let us look at some handy tips to ensure your work-life does not take over every other aspect of life.

#1. Good communication

It is imperative that you have good lines of communication with your dental staff. It is important that they are on the same page as you when it comes to business goals. Once every team member is clear about what is expected from them, you will not have to spend time in re-inventing the wheel. You tend to spend a lot of time and energy in business on account of losses in communication. A well-documented process can ensure that these issues are taken care of.

Maintaining clear operating practices can also go a long way in preventing stress. For example, do you provide emergency dental care to your patients outside of regular hours? If the answer to this question is yes, what is the protocol to inform you of these emergencies? You need to make sure that your staff is fully updated on these aspects.

#2. Set hard work hours

It is important to fix work hours and ensure your staff and patients know about them. While dental emergencies may certainly need you to be flexible, it is important to follow a schedule on normal days. The advantage of having fixed hours is also that everyone makes efficient use of their time during work hours and remains guilt-free post office hours.

When you run your own dental practice, you also have the advantage of deciding the length of your workday as well as your workweek. Studies have reported lower stress levels with a four-day workweek as opposed to five. Go ahead and work more consolidated days and shorter weeks if it works better for your work-life balance.

#3. Tune out distractions and set boundaries

Technology brings in its wake a number of distractions. To be able to become more productive, it is important that these distractions are tuned out. Setting up a “Do not disturb” on your phone or limiting screen time can all be good starting points. Another important aspect that makes for a healthier you includes setting relevant boundaries. This includes no longer agreeing to things that you do not want to do and also making sure that you fill your own bucket with things that you like to do. In fact, make sure that you schedule at least one activity during the day that you really like.

#4 Reset

Every once in a while, remember to take a break. It will allow you to rejuvenate and come back to your work with gusto. It will be a good idea to schedule some time off well in advance. Typically routine checkups and teeth cleanings are scheduled six months in advance. Should you schedule your vacation at the beginning of the year, chances are you may not have to reschedule it.

In times when your work schedule does not allow you to take a holiday, remember to build in short breaks during the day to collect yourself. A little stretch and some breathing exercises will not take a lot of time but will mean the world when it comes to your health and the health of patients that you see.

#5. Join a support group

Joining a support group that will help you in your journey of achieving work-life balance is key. With a person or a group of such people, you tend to stay accountable. You can also celebrate your achievements along the way with them and keep yourself motivated. Attending dental conferences can be one of the ways to create this network of people who have similar career experiences and work-life challenges.

Importantly and at any point in time, if you feel overwhelmed, do ask for help. Your partner, a close friend, your GP – there can be enough and more people who can extend that hand of support.

To sum up

Your effectiveness as a dentist will increase severalfold if you have a positive outlook. It is your own energy level and the fact that you feel upbeat, that will help you, in turn, alleviate the fears and anxieties of your patients. Here’s to a smiling you as well as ensuring the smiles on the faces of your patients.

About the Author

Dr. Sharda Patel is a General Dentist at Dental Oasis, Family Dentistry; a graduate of the Tufts University of Dental Medicines. She is a member of some well-known organizations such as the American Dental Association, California Dental Association, and the American Dental Education Association. She is thorough, caring, and dedicated to patient satisfaction and comfort. You may find her reading a paperback on weekends.

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