Unpopular opinion: It’s not about the dentistry right now

unpopular-opinion:-it’s-not-about-the-dentistry-right-now

What am I doing to help my practice during this pandemic? I’m drinking great beer and spending some quality time with my loves at home. Really. It’s not about the dentistry right now. Hear me out.

I’m heartbroken. My greatest love has been taken away from me. Dentistry is the only thing I’m good at and the only thing I’ve really invested any time in. I always thought that I could be a great bartender if dentistry didn’t work out but that’s just not in the cards right now since the bars are closed.  What a strange time to be alive.

Y’all. People are freaking out and for good reason. We’re pretty sure that for many of us, our health will be OK but we also don’t know what the financial implications will be. Will our businesses survive 1-3 months of no income? Will our patients forgive us for being closed for so long? Will our team survive financially and want to come back to work with us? Will our patients survive financially and continue wanting non-urgent care? The hardest part about this is that none of us have been through this before so we can’t lean on our mentors the same way that we usually would.

This could be the greatest economic tragedy of our lifetime. It’s heartbreaking, it’s awful. But that’s not what this is about. This is a perfect time for a giant pivot in our lives. We’ve learned so much about generosity, hard work, teamwork, gratitude and community —  it’s time to put it to action outside of our practices.

This is the first time in a long time that we’re not idolizing athletes, rock stars, celebrities and Instagram models. The true heroes have come to the forefront: the doctors, nurses, firefighters and EMTs. Now that toilet paper is the new currency, money doesn’t seem quite so important.

Community is important. Sometimes it seems like it’s not because the world is set up so that you don’t have to engage with people. I hope this time helps us realize how connected we actually are. I miss my teammates, my community, and my patients.  I’m excited to get back to dentistry, but until then I’m going to work on being happy, silly, playful, loving and present.  What a wonderful life we have!

No, I’m not completely blowing off my practice. My team members are taken are of, we are answering emergency calls remotely and doing virtual consults as needed. I’ve hired a contractor to take care of some projects around the office. Here are five things you can do today so that you can chill out for the next few weeks and enjoy your life.

  1. Take care of your team!
    If you’re a business owner, this is what you signed up for. If you want the option to kick @$! when things are back to normal then you need to make sure your work family is taken care of now when things are tough. This is non-negotiable.
  2. Take a break.
    Somewhere along the way we’ve learned that our value is in our work. We’ve learned that success means adding more and more to our list until we’re screaming for more time/help/resources. And even when the government mandates that we take a break, somehow we are still trying to find ways to keep the chaos alive; surfing message boards for new ways to keep ourselves and our team members busy, panicking about… Good grief, just take a break! Take off your nerd hat off and look around. Let your team have a break. We can get back to the chaos next month. You want to sleep in late? Eat ice cream for breakfast? Paint? Build a car? DO IT NOW!I plan to drink lots of great beer, cook with ALL of the garlic, hike my buns off, do a lot of yoga, work on my handstand, take some online dance lessons, and spend some quality time with my loves at home. Your list may involve drinking tea and making soap.
  1. Take care of your to-do list.
    This could be your only time in life to have NOTHING left on your to-do list. Finish the projects around your office and set some intentions for the future. I am taking advantage of the down time by replacing counters, cabinets, and building out a fourth operator at my office.
  2. Quit talking to the people who make you feel low.
    You know the ones I’m talking about! They’re those same people in dental school who made you feel lousy for not studying all the time.  The fearful, angry ones. They’re all over your text messages and especially all over social media — they will make you more fearful and angry!  Stick with the people who have positive solutions that make you feel better.
  3. Plan for the future
    Re-evaluate overhead: One of the most difficult part about dentistry is making sure that less money goes out than coming in. Right now there is a ton of money going out because we need to take care of our bills and our team. Take out a loan if you need to take some pressure off. Soon the money will be coming back in. When it does, is there a chance that your overhead can be lower so that you are more profitable?Your practice vision: What does your ideal office look like?  Write it out.  This is the perfect time to re-invent yourself.  How many ops to do you want? What are the characteristics of each one of your ideal team members? What do your ideal systems look like? What does your perfect schedule look like?Plan for the next time: We are hopeful that this is the only time we’ll be out of work for this long but who knows what could happen. What have your learned that may be helpful next time around?

OK now stop it. You’ve done enough. What if this is the time you learn to love your life outside of work? What if you learn how to be silly with your kids? What if this is the break you needed to reinvigorate your marriage? Maybe you’ll get a few projects done at home. Heaven forbid you learn to relax a little bit.

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“The Universe requests the honor of your presence at the raging cosmic bender through time, space, and infinite possibility otherwise known as your one and only life.  What are you brining to the party: your drab old sob stories or your dancing shoes?” -Jen Sincero, You Are a Badass

Dr. Dawn Wehking graduated from the University of Maryland School of Dentistry in 2010.  She is a visiting faculty member at Spear Education and a contributor to Spear Digest.  She was awarded Master status with the Academy of General Dentistry, has been published in the Journal of Cosmetic Dentistry, and is an ADA Success Speaker, teaching dental students about life after dental school. Dr. Wehking owns a small private practice in Lafayette, Colorado. On her days off, you’ll find her with her dog, Daisy, enjoying Colorado’s great outdoors.

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