Leading Through a Pandemic: Strengthening Your Relationships with Patients and Team Members

Posted Jun 25th, 2020 in the wire, thought leadership, 2020

The COVID-19 global crisis has forced everyone to think differently. Have you thought about how your leadership will be remembered during this pandemic?

Dental practice leaders have the responsibility to focus on two significant aspects that make the practice successful: patients and team members. Loyalty and trust will be tested during these challenging times. Now is the ideal time for critical self-reflection to ensure that the relationships you’ve created with team members and patients don’t become compromised.

Self-reflection

It’s important to reflect on how well you communicate with your staff and patients. We all know that dentistry is built on solid relationships. Ask yourself the important questions. Am I forming meaningful relationships to sustain the success and profitability of my practice? Did I do everything I could have done while the office was closed to stay connected to my team members and patients? Am I ready to move forward with new guidelines and protocols to ensure that my team members’ and patients’ safety remains top priority? While reflecting, remember to cut yourself some slack. It’s ok if you didn’t do everything right. We are continually learning and growing throughout these unprecedented times.

Effectively communicating with your team

Like any successful relationship, whether personal or professional, effective communication is essential for growth. Now is the time to hone your communication skills and adequately prepare yourself to reassure every person who walks through the door that you are taking every precaution to keep them safe.

The reopening of dental practices requires a team approach. It’s essential that your team members understand that appropriate precautions are being taken. It’s your responsibility to implement proper training for your team members on new guidelines and protocols required to reopen. Your team members must also feel confident and prepared to explain to patients the health and safety measures that are in place. This will be a transitional period for everyone. It’s important to make sure that your team members have readily available resources as needed. Click here for a comprehensive playbook to aid in the safe and effective reopening of your practice.

Patients won’t be the only ones in your office experiencing feelings of uncertainty. Be sure to routinely check in with team members and allow them to address their concerns while giving them the attention they deserve to navigate through this difficult time. Lack of direction will leave them feeling confused, especially when they’re looking to you to feel safe. It’s your responsibility as a leader to make informed decisions about how best to move forward with a clear plan and vision.

Reassuring and connecting with your patients

Patients are going to be scrupulous as they return to your practice. Things that they never thought about before will now be at the forefront of their minds. Anxiety and fear will likely be present. Now more than ever, connecting with your patients is going to be critical, and this starts with the initial phone call from the patient to your practice. If your patients appear reluctant to return, it’s crucial to have a reassuring conversation with them, clearing describing all of the new protective protocols in place. Overcommunicate that appointments will be different than what they were typically used to and discuss what they can expect in the “new normal” going forward. Additionally, if there are any changes to billing (i.e. new charge for PPE), be sure to clarify with your patients ahead of time and carefully explain why this was introduced. And if there are physical changes to your space, post a video or share photos.

With new health and safety guidelines requiring masks to be worn by practitioners at all times, it’ll be hard for patients to differentiate who’s who, and maintaining personal connections will be a unique challenge. Since there will be changes to the PPE you are wearing, share details and images of your team from “before” and “after.”

Though patients will feel a sense of security knowing you're wearing the proper equipment to prevent the spread of COVID-19, it's important to show compassion and make those personal connections. Take the time to listen to their fears and concerns and give them your undivided attention. Dental anxiety existed long before this pandemic. It's your responsibility, especially during this time, to provide the reassurance patients need to feel as comfortable as possible when back in the chair. Furthermore, it would be helpful to remind your patients about the importance of not neglecting oral care, especially due to anxiety caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

During these uncertain times, you have the opportunity to make a lasting impact with your patients and team members. Through critical self-reflection, effective communication and compassionate care, you can help ensure your relationships emerge from this pandemic stronger than ever.

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