Dimensions Brand Ambassador Kimberly Dubbs, RDH, of Burlington, New Jersey, discusses how she learned to come out of her shell in the dental office.
I started my career in the operatory 10 years ago and I still remember that heart-pounding feeling of being on my own, having to put all of those skills I learned in dental hygiene school to use in a brand new setting. Pair that feeling with a shy personality and I instantly clammed up. I would internalize most of my thoughts while with patients, trying to make small talk here and there about the weather so it wasn’t so painfully quiet in my room. The great news is confidence starts to set in quickly when you are working in a dental office.
Luckily, I had an amazing team on my side that helped pull me out of my shell. I saw the kind of connections they had with patients in the practice and realized the importance of building those relationships. They had so much trust in our team, and I wanted to make sure my patients knew they could trust me to take care of them and their families. I began getting to know them on a more personal level, and before I knew it, 6 months had flown by and my nervousness subsided when I interacted with my patients.
MAKE SMALL TALK
Get to know your patients on a deeper level, ask them how their day was or what kind of work they do. Make notes in their chart for the next visit such as the patient has two dogs, and their names. Your patient will be so impressed that you remember the names of her dogs when she is back for a recare appointment in 6 months! Patients appreciate you taking the time to get to know them. This is the first step in building trust.
ORAL HEALTH EDUCATION
Put your passion on the frontlines and take the time to truly educate patients on oral health. Most will be very intrigued especially when talking about oral-systemic health. Too often patients only hear “brush twice a day and floss” as your hands are submerged in their mouths. As dental hygienists we didn’t just go to school to “clean teeth,” we have the ability to help save lives. Our conversations about their overall health are crucial! I always start by taking blood pressure then updating their health history at the beginning of each appointment, explaining the importance and how it all relates. This opens the dialogue right away and is when you have their attention.
GET TO KNOW YOUR TEAM
Aside from communicating with patients, it’s also important to talk to your coworkers.
Prepare in the mornings to review all your patient charts with your team and dentist. We always start off with a morning huddle and this creates a team atmosphere and open dialogue with co-workers. They can provide you with insight on who you are seeing that day, and you can review any open-ended treatment plans they may have in the notes as well as any concerns you may have for that patient. This will help both you and the dentist’s day run much more smoothly if you know each other’s schedules.
If you have a favorite recipe, bring in a special treat for the break room for the team to enjoy and leave the recipe card out to share with everyone. Everyone’s favorite of mine was my homemade biscuits, they were greatly appreciated for a morning treat!
YOUR VOICE MATTERS
We are so lucky our profession leads to personal growth and development as practitioners. This is so important because as a healthcare provider we need our patients to understand the significance of our jobs. Building a rapport and relationship with your patients gains their trust and they will invest in life-long treatments with you and your team that will better their overall health and wellness. This will benefit you personally both in and out of the op. Breaking out of my shell allowed me to advance in my career, learn to apply the latest research, and implement exciting new technologies and treatments.