Dental Articles

Chaos vs. Systems


By Dr. Deborah Marynak

Recently I got a phone call from a friend asking to speak with me about problems she was having at work. Let me start by saying she’s an outstanding dental assistant, mother, wife, daughter, sister and friend. One of those people you meet and in working together, you learn they are just an all-around outstanding human being.

She started by asking me if she’d complained about the systems in her office that weren’t working. She actually had spoken to me about these issues and after eight months of making polite suggestions, nothing had changed.

She felt that when entering the sterilization area, no one should have to wonder what was happening. In an efficient system, anyone should be able to know exactly what was going on and anyone (even you RDH’s) could break down and set up trays during down time. She apologized for complaining, and yet I told her the complaint was valid and understandable.

She told me the assistant who was responsible for the ordering took far too long, and it was clear that there was no inventory system in place for quick and efficient ordering. They were constantly running out of necessary and even basic supplies; when certain products aren’t available during treatment, stress rises.

She reported that a part of the ordering issue was that there aren’t dedicated places where inventory was stored. When there isn’t a place for everything and without everything in its place, ordering the appropriate supplies is,at the very least, daunting.

She’d given it a lot of thought and realized the Doctors/Owners of the practice were oblivious to the time and money wasting issues in the office. Doctors are head down, hand piece turning and all they want is to produce a lot of Dentistry. Then she stopped and laughed, saying: “How come you notice these things, Dr. Marynak?”

I’m not sure why I can see non-productive systems today, but there was a time when I couldn’t recognize them at all. Perhaps I was enlightened when I worked at a very large office in the Midwest. This particular office was very organized, and everything clicked and moved along so seamlessly. As I look back, I realize the systems in that office weren’t put in place by the Doctor; his lead dental assistant was responsible for their tremendous organization.

I had to admit to her that over the years, I’d noticed that most dental assistants don’t like change. Once systems are in place, even poor systems, improving or changing them is usually met with intense opposition. And so she asked, “What’s a girl to do?”

I’m not sure what the answer is to that question. It’s important to understand that dentists are not trained to run a business, but as with any business owner, they’re very concerned about saving time and money. And it’s not just time and money I’m talking about; solid systems make work more enjoyable, preserve energy and reduce stress.

Are you working in an office that needs better systems? Are you one of the employees resisting change for the better?

Or, are you lucky enough to be employed in an office with strong, efficient, repeatable systems, where 99% of your work day is seamless 99% of the time? If so...sweet!

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