August 7, 2014

PlayfulnessI work at a number of practices and also travel around and talk to general dental practitioners in postgraduate venues. Nearly everywhere I go, stress is palpable in the air and the general demeanour is one of worry about the future and anxiety caused by a risk of litigation and the CQC Inquisition. Actually, not many of us smile these days except for that forced grin when welcoming patients into the surgery. The greatest relief seems to be in getting to the end of the day and starting the trek home.

Well, first of all, if you are already a client of Quality Compliance Systems then relax! Embrace the packages of compliance policies and procedures, set up routine training and familiarisation with your staff, and this side will look after itself.

Quality and effectiveness

Patients are more likely to take issue with you if you keep them at a distance. Involve patients in decision making, talk to them about possibilities and find out what they really, really want. Effectiveness of dentistry depends so much on cooperation and compliance with advice that getting up close and personal with patients is the best way to keep them on your side.

The most important aspect of this is ‘intention’. This is a little used but hugely effective approach to healthcare. Why are you doing this at all? What do want as an outcome on behalf of your patients? What drives you to get up and go to work in the morning? If your intention is not to improve the lives of patients in some way then your day is going to be more of a struggle! Just paying the mortgage is not a good enough reason to do this job, but it can become an all-consuming fire that engulfs your life.

If you start every working day with the question ‘How can I help my patients?’ then the working day takes on more meaning, all that hard work has a deeper satisfaction and this, in turn, drives up quality and effectiveness.

This leaves you the space to have fun and be playful with what you do. Dont worry, there`s nothing in the GDC guidance or the CQC Standards that says you can’t enjoy the job!

Being playful

The balance to achieve is to be playful yet respectful in your relationship with patients. You could start by practicing ‘Unconditional Positive Regard’ for patients of all sorts. UPR is a subject all on its own, but as a practice we should all implement it in providing compassionate and caring treatment. It does help to greet people with that all important smile, regardless of how late we are running or how stressed we are. Here are some ideas to think about:

  • Plan organised Fun Days in the practice, especially if you have a lot of registered children. A fancy dress day for staff, or a Christmas Grotto day when everyone is dressed the part and each child gets a ‘goody bag’. This is really fun to do and from my own experience is a good bonding exercise with staff too.
  • Have poster colouring competitions for children or tooth orientated poetry competitions for adults. These make great postings for social media associated with the practice.
  • Similarly, draws for free whitening with a nice presentation package generate lots of good publicity.
  • Ask patients for any dental jokes they know and then make a point of repeating these during the day (if not too rude!).

The whole idea is to have fun with work, fun with staff and fun with patients, all of which can improve relationships and make your day go by quicker – in a good way.

John Shapter
John Shapter

Dental Specialist


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