Three ways dental clinics can manage pandemic fatigue and prevent staff burnout
SAN FRANCISCO, Calif., U.S.: The past year has been an exhausting one for medical professionals, including dental practice owners, those working in urgent care facilities and specialists. The entire medical community has greatly suffered. As a result, many owners and workers have experienced pandemic fatigue, which encompasses the exhaustion people have collectively felt owing to COVID-19 restrictions and the frustrations resulting from obstructions in social activities, school, work and everyday life.
The stress of the pandemic is no less when it comes to dentistry. Recently, the American Dental Association Health Policy Institute reported that dentists have seen cases of bruxism rise by 71%, and instances of both cracked and chipped teeth have risen by 63% each. This is in addition to a reported increase in cavities, periodontal disease and more.
As a result, this has placed a strain on dental practices trying to balance patient needs, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reopening and operating guidelines and the effective management of their staff. This additional pressure on owners often trickles down to staff, who may not have the right resources to help navigate changes that impact the logistics and operational side of the practice. It is therefore critical to facilitate a healthy work environment where staff can continue to thrive.
There are three ways dental practices can help to manage pandemic fatigue and burnout:
Evaluate employee morale
Staff can often be weighed down by tasks such as handling telephone calls with insurance companies, navigating appointment changes and ordering new supplies, and this pressure can lead to a dip in morale.
Practice owners should consider increasing communication cadences and facilitating a culture where open, honest communication is welcome.
- Have a daily stand-up. An informal check-in each morning is a great way to get staff aligned and energized. Introduce fun questions, kick off with a thought starter, etc.
- Send weekly mental health check-ins. For instance, Deputy’s time clock feature is a great way to connect with employees to ask questions around morale for the week.
- Create a buddy system. Regardless of the size of the clinic, pair staff up so that each person has someone he or she can connect with in order to check-in.
These measures will provide staff the opportunity to share feedback, make suggestions and be fully transparent about how they are feeling. This can help identify ways to boost morale moving forward.
Whether staff need to secure an appointment for an emergency root canal or rebook a routine cleaning, no day looks the same.
Staff are often balancing additional schedules on top of the tasks already mentioned, especially if they work at multiple facilities. Therefore, an element of flexibility is needed to help alleviate some of the burnout that comes from the day-to-day challenges of working in a dental practice.
- Empower employees. Provide teams with the flexibility to swap schedules or press pause if they need a recharge.
- Use an automatic scheduling tool to save time. Eliminate frustrating administrative tasks and let staff focus on the work that matters most to them.
- Free up the schedule. Consider rotating schedules so that employees feel motivated and energized.
Develop team goals
Building a supportive, healthy company culture is crucial to the success of a business. This includes investing in talent and creating a growth track for employees. A great way to start is to generate attainable goals or identify clear career paths within the practice.
Begin communicating with staff on how they feel about their career journey and the future and what they would like to accomplish in the next six months, one year and three years. Employees feel better about their work when they have something higher to reach for.
- Put it in writing. Create realistic goals that are tailored to each role and reward employees as they hit different milestones.
- Provide professional development stipends. Help staff pursue personal development and educational goals with a small education budget. If they’re getting burned out, that professional development can help keep them engaged.
- Celebrate wins. Encourage employees to cheer each other on as they work toward their goals.
The Practice Manager’s Employee Engagement Checklist provides more ideas about how to boost morale and keep staff happy and can be downloaded here free of charge. More information about Deputy can be found at www.deputy.com.