Friday, April 4, 2014

Change in Everything

I was walking by the Sony Store recently and saw an amazing 80-inch TV on display. I was amazed! My tech-envy made me want to have it in my home. I checked the price; it was only $25,000! (I say this with my tongue firmly implanted in my cheek). Reality set in. Our family room is not that large and our 52-inch TV is plenty for our home. And given what I paid for it, many years ago, it can be replaced for about $1,000.00 today. I know, given a few years (or maybe just months?) the big Sony TV will come down in price. In fact, I recently saw a Samsung 80-inch TV that was only $6,500, but it did not have the picture technology of the Sony.

My wife puts up with my geekiness and the desire to have gadgets. I think it is a requirement for being a dentist. We sure do love our gadgets. And the pace of change continues unabated. I graduated in 1987 and there is no procedure I do today, that is the same as what I did when I graduated. Everything has changed. It can be scary to stay on top of everything. But I really liked what Dr. Don Deems wrote in the January 2014 issue of AGD Impact: “You don’t need to be the first kid on the block to have the latest and greatest of everything. Instead, slow down and remember the fundamentals of providing your best dental and patient care, and your practice will do well. Simplification can have far-reaching effects.”

When I graduated, I quickly realized not how much I knew, but how much I didn’t know. Fortunately, I was in the Canadian Armed Forces and I was posted to the Army base in Calgary where I worked in a dental clinic with four other dentists, all more experienced than I was. What an amazing learning opportunity. I could practice the basic skills I learned in school with an experienced dental assistant who guided me in the non-clinical stuff that I needed to learn. I could take my time and learn how to be a good dentist. As my commanding officer said, “First you get good. Then you get fast.”

After three incredible years as a clinical dentist in the Forces, I then worked as an associate in a shopping mall practice. There I learned more skills, particularly in the business of dentistry. It was in this four year associateship period that I had the opportunity to have lunch with Dr. Gordon Christensen. He was in Calgary delivering a lecture on faster, better, higher quality dentistry. He reiterated the comment about being good before being fast. He told me that I should spend 10 percent of my time outside my envelope of comfort. If I spent less than 10 percent, I would stagnate. But more than 10 percent of my time outside of that comfort zone puts me in danger of burnout, mistakes or worse. An even 10 percent keeps us growing, learning, improving—and we all win.

Twenty years ago, I bought the practice I have operated ever since and those lessons have served me well. I am still a geek, and a gadget guy but I don’t have all of the latest gadgets. I have enough to keep me happy and wow my patients every day, and my patient care is consistently at the high level I desire and expect. I am doing the best I can. I’m pretty fast now, for some routine procedures, giving me the time to continue to develop relationships with our patients. It’s pretty fun.

So now I create lists. Each year, I start with a priority list of what I want to learn more about for continuing education (CE). Next is a list of equipment (gadgets) that I want to consider purchasing in the coming year. Because I am still hungry and still growing, the idea of no longer doing dentistry just is not part of my life equation.

Embrace the changes; we know they will continue unabated. Don’t run out and get every latest and greatest item for your practices. First you get good, and then you get fast. Slow down in everything else and enjoy the journey. The saying about stopping and smelling the roses is still valid, if not more so, today.

Thanks for reading. There’s a new Star Trek collectible series that I want to consider…

Warm regards,

Larry Stanleigh

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