Diamond Designs' Anne McDonnell says: “Keep your team confident and comfortable”
Good relationships with your patients are essential. When a patient visits your practice, they need to feel at ease. You want them to trust you enough to say if they are feeling anxious, so you can help. Acceptance and compliance to a treatment plan depend on a positive patient/practitioner relationship.
To stick to a plan and ensure its success, the patient must fully understand what is required of them – improving their brushing technique, for example – which will depend on them asking as many questions as they need. No-one should leave the practice in a state of confusion, because they felt embarrassed about asking what their diagnosis actually meant.
Who is responsible for nurturing good relationships with patients? The simple answer is – everyone! The dental team looks very different from the way it did only a few decades ago. It has evolved to respond to changing needs and higher patient expectations. With dental nurses, dental hygienists and dental therapists able to deliver preventive care, and oral health education, some dentists are choosing to focus on more advanced or specialist procedures and delegate responsibility.
While we are seeing greater skill mix in practices, not all patients might be engaged with the changes. Someone who expects to see the dentist but is then told they will be seeing a dental therapist instead, might not understand why and feel upset or even short-changed.
This is where good relationships and interpersonal skills are essential. Patients need to clearly understand why the dental therapist is the best person for that particular job, which will reinforce their awareness that they are receiving the very highest standards of personalised care.
Communicate, stay connected
How to improve relationships? Well, a lot depends on positive communication. Every member of the team should be friendly, professional and informed, so that everyone who calls, or walks into the practice, can be confident that no question is too trivial and no problem too small.
Speaking in a fashion your patients can easily understand is also important; which is not to patronise them, but to explain clearly what the issue is, and the proposed solution, while staying away from medical jargon and avoiding words that might exacerbate their anxiety.
If yours is a practice that cares for patients from all generations, you will need to ensure everyone, from your oldest to your youngest patients, get all the support they need in terms they understand, especially when it comes to their role in at-home oral health maintenance. And demonstrating empathy with a nervous patient, even after a long and tiring day, will show your full commitment to their care, and encourage them to come back.
Conversational confidence is not natural to everyone, but if every practice manager and /or principal aims to ensure their team is as up-to-date on dental developments as is practical, they will at least be able to provide cogent answers, or point the patient in the right direction.
And if a patient presents a photo of a white celebrity smile and says, “I want that!” the team will be better trained to discuss the limits of treatment in a friendly, positive way and clearly communicate what is possible (and what isn’t) while outlining the implications of treatment.
Make time for regular team meetings in which you all share patient experiences, positive or negative, so that everyone can learn from them. It’s a simple equation, and to take a leaf from Rudyard Kipling: if you know what you are talking about; if you listen to what people are saying; and if you don’t simply tell them what to do, you’ll inspire their confidence and respect.
Looking the part
Looking the part is no less important; the words we use account for just a small percentage of communication. Body language and appearance play a greater part, don’t let the way you look act as a barrier. Everyone in the dental team should look professional and dress appropriately for their role.
Update your uniforms if you need to – a properly accoutered team that is comfortable, clean and modern sends an important visual signal to patients that yours is a professional practice they can trust. Looking good can improve patient relationships, and when the team look professional it is simply another facet of the high-quality service you deliver.
My company, Diamond Designs, is a specialist in the design and distribution of stunning medical uniforms and scrubs in various styles and colourways, so you will always look confident at work. The styles can be easily rotated, and, with fast delivery, the team will always have something great to wear.
Patient/practitioner relationships are key to everything that happens in the dental practice, so do everything you can to keep them strong. Alongside high-quality, stable treatment, the way your team behaves and looks are just as important for enhanced patient confidence. In the right environment patients will feel safe and comfortable in your care. And, remember, when your team looks their best they will have the confidence they need to tackle the most trying days.
Anne McDonnell is the Managing Director of Diamond Designs Uniforms. Inspired by a childhood dream to pursue fashion, in 1989 Anne launched Diamond Designs Uniforms to provide dental professionals a range of scrubs and uniforms with a difference. Today Diamond Designs is one of the most recognised uniform brands in Ireland. To find out more, visit: www.diamonddesignsuniforms.com