Imagine this typical social scenario: A man spots woman at a party and strikes up a conversation. He learns she is unattached, further provoking his interests. She determines that he works in an office nearby, so she continues talking to gather more information. Business cards are exchanged and, before we know it, this couple is having their first telephone conversation, followed by a date. The woman is wined, dined, and showered with gifts. She does not know how she may feel long-term about her generous new friend, but knows she has to reciprocate soon if this relationship continues. Since this is a dental blog, we are not really talking about a “man” and a “woman.” The woman here is a general dentist and the male is a specialist.
In case you didn’t already know, NYC is crawling with dentists. We are literally everywhere. Most people need to look no further than their office building, which will probably contain a dental practice or 20 (I’m looking at you, 30 Rock). The economy has room for improvement, so dentists are more likely than ever not to refer their patients out of their practice. They want to keep the work in-house, by either doing the procedures themselves, or hiring specialists to do the work in their offices. Specialists here are desperate for referrals, kind of like that lonely guy at a party. Once they spot you, GP, you are their new best friend and the victim of a lot of attention, whether you like it or not. Unlike more rural towns, there are many kinds of specialists in all neighborhoods of this city, giving us GPs plenty of referral options.
What will make you refer your patients to a specialist? I think the number one reason is social connections. You may have friends that you went to dental school with that decided to specialize. You know them well and are confident in their clinical skills. You may make a new friend at a local dental society (which, coincidently, has a large specialist membership). Sometimes a confident and eager doctor will show up at your office and drop off some business cards. Here are tips when making these decisions, but feel free to use them for dating advice also.
1. Play the field. Don’t get tied down to just one person. You need to see what else is out there and having other options is important in case your current one does not work out.
2. Give them a chance. If someone has gone out of their way to get to know you, bring you gifts, or invite you to a party, do not blow them off just because you don’t know them or already have a doctor that you are referring to. Meet them for a drink and give them a chance. You may be pleasantly surprised.
3. Don’t be blinded by good looks and fancy gifts; personality will always win out in the end. I really appreciate it when I refer a patient to someone and I get a thank you email, letting me know the status of the patient and any other additional info. A bottle of wine is nice, but that does not assist me in the treatment of my patient afterwards. So, just to be clear, follow up with an email and then you may send over a bottle.
4. Remember that there are always other fish in the sea. The beginning of your GP-specialist relationship was great, but somewhere down the line, you began not getting the attention you deserved. If you are starting to feel like this, do not hesitate to start referring to someone that will treat you well.
My final piece of advice is for dental students. Sometimes dental school can feel a bit like high school. If you have your heart set on specializing, good grades and excellent recommendations are not the only thing you need. You also need to win the loyalty and support of your fellow students, most of whom will become the general dentists that you will be very eager to know when you finish your training. Start building those relationships early by attending social events and putting your best face forward at all times. The opportunity to build a great reputation in dental school is invaluable; don’t take it for granted.
On a different note, I am starting to think outside the box more and more in terms of finding interesting or relevant blog posts to write about on here. What do you guys want to hear about? I personally would like to know more about all the dentist parents out there and how they manage to raise their families and still make time for their work and their patients. I also would love to hear what some of your typical days are like. Do you work a standard 40-hour workweek or part-time? What is your favorite after work activity that to unwind after a long day? Don’t hold back—I would love to hear from you!
I wish everyone a great post 3-day weekend work week, and hope to see y’all in Nashville soon!
Lilya Horowitz, DDS