Pet peeves—we all have them. The good thing about pet peeves is that they are kind of like pets. We all love our pets, but every now and then, that loveable pet will chew the toes off your favorite eel-skin boots, or do its necessary natural elimination on your favorite rug, or run away for days but then return like nothing happened.
Owning a practice is like owning a pet. Most of the time, I love it! It gives me great joy to make my patients feel comfortable and happy. I love the challenges of learning new technologies. I have a great, supportive staff, and we all work together wonderfully. However, like every dentist, I do have those moments when things don’t go as planned, patients fail to keep appointments, production drops, and “burnout” lifts its ugly head.
That’s the pet peeve that came to light yesterday. Not the burnout, but all of the solutions offered to correct it. Having been in practice almost 40 years now, I have seen multitudes of solutions offered for what can become a very serious problem. I don’t want to discount the issue of burnout, but have you ever noticed that the people offering the solutions come out of the woodwork in the last quarter of the year? This is when we get serious about analyzing our practice for the past year and may realize we’re missing some of our goals, which can be stressful. I think a lot of dentists who are experiencing normal challenges of a dental practice suddenly diagnose themselves as being “burnt out” and can easily fall into a state of depression as a result of a deluge of marketing by purveyors of burnout solutions, most of which are quite expensive.
Also, have you noticed the experience that some of the burnout consultants have? Many are not dentists at all but claim to be able to solve your problems even though the problems are specific to dentistry. Others ran successful dental practices for 10 to 20 years but say that they have found their calling to help other dentists reduce the stresses of dentistry. Almost none are still practicing dentistry. If dentistry can be so stress-free and profitable, then why did they quit?
They quit because dentistry is hard, very challenging at times, and often not as profitable as many had hoped it would be. Because of these traits of the profession, many doctors are looking for a fix to their burnout, so they look to a big market for solutions. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been there, done that several times, and my experiences were mostly beneficial. I just have discomfort with the existential, touchy-feely approaches.
Personally, I have found keeping my family time and practice time balanced, reassessing goals, and keeping pace with advancements in dentistry to be the best ways to reduce stress and achieve the rewards of satisfaction with a job well done. I also have learned to accept that our profession can be very stressful, but to work through the stress by my own analysis of the causes. Stress is merely one of the challenges we face. Without challenges, new knowledge would not be obtained, and we would not have the advantage of being able to deliver dental health care at its highest level ever.
If you don’t have one, get a real pet.
Terry G. Box, DDS, MAGD