I graduated from a 10-month, post-graduate training program a few weekends ago. It was a great feeling! As with every other accomplishment, I felt as if I were on top of the world. I drove home with my moon-roof opened, speeding a bit, listening to my favorite music a bit louder than usual, and singing along even louder than that. My brain however, couldn't stop. I wondered if the new knowledge and techniques will change the base of my practice. Am I a better dentist because of this program, or do I just have another plaque to hang on the wall?
I found myself turning down the music and shutting the moon-roof to concentrate a bit more. It was a very interesting and scary question, especially after I had invested thousands of dollars and many hours of my time.
I looked back at the past 10 months. Most of the people in my class were older and much more experienced practitioners. Like me, they are continuing education junkies. Speaking to many of them during the course of the past 10 months, I heard many different opinions and point of views for what comes out of these continuing education courses. One common complaint was about implementing what we learn into the daily practice, turning it into a positive and useful experience rather than a purely educational experience. I understood the concern in a sense. These courses are taught assuming a perfect patient population and a perfect treatment solution. What I couldn’t understand, however, was that most of the instructors hold private practices themselves. They have these perfect scenarios on a daily basis and truly implement what they teach in their practices every day.
This made me think about the differences between the instructors and the students in the class. I thought of factors like the location of the practice, the demographic and psychographics of the patient population, the clinical expertise of the practitioner, the age of the practitioner, the level of education, the training institution, the inborn sense of artistry, and many more. None of that really came across to me as a major difference. We had people in our class who were just as good as our instructors when it came to actual dentistry and who work in practices which were pretty similar in most senses.
The one difference that I thought was very obviously noticeable, however, was the communication skills. This one skill was what stuck out as a major difference between our instructors and the students. I do understand that as an instructor, your communication skills will naturally improve. But perhaps that is exactly what helps push them further everyday. The art of communicating your knowledge and belief to others in an effective way, I think, is the key to implementing the new knowledge or techniques in everyday practice and truly experiencing the positive results of the efforts we put in when we take courses.
When I think about my own practice and how I communicate with my staff and patients, I admit that I wouldn’t give myself a perfect score. It is a difficult skill set to learn. I sometimes feel like those who have it are fortunate because you’ve either go it, or you don’t. But I know I'm wrong. It is definitely a skill we can learn and improve on. Perhaps a few CE courses should be designed around this subject.
And so I came to a conclusion. Learning the techniques and the science is essential to our growth as practitioners; however, without proper communication skills, I can never find that perfect situation to implement the changes I need to have a more successful outcome. The problem is not always obvious. We know all too well, especially in dentistry, that the details matter just as much. Choose your words wisely!
Mona Goodarzi, DDS