I recently contributed a chapter to Messages from Dental masters 2 – How to enjoy and thrive in your dental career (http://www.gdpresources.co.uk/letter/messages-dental-masters-ii). However, it is the words of one of my co-contributors, Adam Glassford, with which I want to start. He says that early on in his career he was taught a very important lesson, and that was, ‘to put quality and patient care above profit.’ This is something which no young dentist should ever lose sight of. One word that I rarely see or hear nowadays in connection with dentistry is ‘vocation’, which is a shame because although the word has lost most of its original meaning, no one should go into dentistry unless they have a strong desire to help their fellow human beings. Dentists can earn a good living, but the financial rewards come as a consequence of what you do, and should never be your prime goal. If simply making money and getting rich is your sole motivation then I suggest you find another career.
This advice is not at odds with making your practice as efficient and profitable as possible; quality and profit are not mutually exclusive. The most profitable businesses are the ones that put the customer first, the ones that invest time and money into training, development and customer service.
I want to return to Adam’s words. He goes on to say, ‘Another important lesson learnt from my 17 years in practice is that if you can’t do something well, you shouldn’t be doing it; refer the patient to someone that can do it better…’ His advice can be summed up as ‘Know your limitations!’ Young, enthusiastic dentists, bursting with knowledge, lack one thing, which is ‘experience’. Learn to curb your gung ho tendencies. It was Oscar Wilde who said, ‘Experience is simply the name we give our mistakes’. Gain your experience at the expense of other people’s mistakes.
Now for a few words from my own chapter in Messages from Dental masters 2 – How to enjoy and thrive in your dental career: ‘Lack of control often equates to a lack of enjoyment. In fact, I think that there is a tendency to lose a certain amount of control over your working life once you leave the predictable and cosy world of the dental school.’ I lost control of my working life at a crucial stage, and only regained it through learning how to manage my practice, seeing things not just from my own selfish perspective but also from others’, and returning to my roots, caring for people, which was why I went into dentistry in the first place. Regaining control is the sub-text of my book Managing a dental practice the Genghis Khan way.
My advice to all young dentists is simple: always put the patient first. The slogan of my practice was, ‘We treat people, not patients’. If you remember that throughout your career you won’t go far wrong.
Copyright Michael Young 2014