I have been a hygienist for over 20 years. The office I work in currently is fairly new, we see a lot of new patients and most of them are perio patients. My question is: I am scheduled one hour for S/RP per side. Most days, I’m scheduled at least 3 of these per day, but it’s getting worse! I am now being scheduled as many as 4 patients of (half the mouth) S/RP’s per day and it is hurting me physically and mentally! (BURN OUT!)
In general, I like the office I am in, I like the dentist I work for, my hours, my coworkers, etc…. But I feel like this schedule (which I have expressed concern about before) is not right for me, or ANY hygienist, or the patients. I feel that my dentist is concerned about the practice bottom line, and patient retention (understandably)….they want them scheduled as quickly as possible (piling up my S/RP’s) instead of booking them further out to give me a slight break! Am I wrong in thinking this is too much? My old practice would never schedule more than two S/RP’s per day at MOST. I’m wondering if I’m being unreasonable? And if not….how should I approach this? Again, it’s been mentioned before and my answer was- it won’t always be this way, we are trying to only book ‘easier’ S/RP’s back-to-back, you should go see my chiropractor, they won’t all show up anyway…..just to name a few. Any answers/opinions would be greatly appreciated.
In my opinion, you are not wrong in thinking this is too much and you are not being unreasonable! I say this especially because you are only getting one hour for two quads. For many patients, a full hour per quad is needed to give the best quality care you can. It’s good for you not to be rushed and it’s good for the patient. Your feeling about the dentist’s priority being the bottom-line instead of quality patient care seems spot on to me. Of course dentistry is a business, but it shouldn’t be at the expense of quality patient care or to the health of the clinician who is providing treatment.
This brings me to you feeling burnt out, both mentally and physically. I don’t blame you for feeling burnt out! You shouldn’t tolerate an office who makes you feel this way. Beyond the mental stress (which is horrible in itself), the physical stress can lead to the risk of musculoskeletal injury, which could shorten your career. That simply isn’t a fair thing of an employer to ask of you. Of course all offices have their quirks, but this is beyond a quirk. Being told to “go see my chiropractor” is a passive-aggressive way of discrediting your feelings and giving excuses for how you feel. The best offices I have worked for, like the ones you have worked for, only schedule a couple SRPs per day. I’ve even been asked in interviews, “How many SRPs do you feel comfortable with in a day?” Not because they wanted to squeeze as many in as they could, but because they cared about my health and patient care standards.
If you’ve brought your concerns to your employer and they keep being discredited, it may be time to make a decision about the office you work for. If you want to try to bring your concerns up again, I would make mention of the fact that if you leave a deposit because you are tired and rushed, this could lead to the patient’s tissue healing around it and leaves the risk of a perio abscess. If a patient needs RCT/crown, or loses a tooth, because of the office’s neglect to provide quality care, the office could come into legal trouble. I know this is pushing it, because the risk is low, but it may get their attention. A claim against the office would certainly hurt patient retention, which may be worth noting too. Not to mention if you needed to file a worker’s comp claim because you injured yourself by overwork. Sadly, sometimes with offices where the focus is on money, you must point out things that could cost them money.
If your gut tells you this office isn’t the right fit to you, your gut is probably right. While things may get better as the office becomes more established, it begs the question of if their focus will always be on the bottom-line over patient care. Could you sleep at night knowing that? I really feel that you should work for an office that shares your same patient care standard and that protocols are the same best practices that you feel are morally and ethically right.
I also want to applaud you for your ethics. This is a very difficult situation to be in. I’m so very sorry you have been put in this place. I wish the very best of luck to you!