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Get Some R&R in 2017

By Steve Cartin, MDiv | December 21, 2016

by Steve Cartin, MDiv

Perhaps a primer is needed as not all of us remember the TV series “M.A.S.H.” As it’s been a while since I was in the military, I wanted to make sure I knew what R&R really meant.

Wikipedia to the rescue. Little did I know that R&R has many meanings: Rock ‘n Roll, Roles & Responsibilities and, for you who write papers for peer review, Revise & Resubmit. But in the Air Force, it was Rest and Recuperation, and it was sorely needed at times, hence it served as a regular theme on “M.A.S.H.”

The R&R you need for the new year is integral to your success and sanity in owning a dental practice or contributing as an associate. It’s the R&R Jesus underscored in ministry. You need it with your team and with your patients. My last blog entries discussed your team. Let’s turn to your patients.

Simply put, you need Relationships & Results. As a business owner or valuable associate, you won’t survive in the long-term on results at the expense of relationships. In Luke 12, the rich landowner said,

“‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build greater, and there I will store all my crops and my goods.’ … But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?’” (Luke 12:18-20, NKJV).

Nor do you want relationships with your patients at the expense of results. The Bible warns us about being men pleasers at the expense of telling them what they really need (Colossians 3:22, 1 Thessalonians 2:4, 2 Timothy 4:3). Dentists can be unduly focused on results (production) just as they can be deceptively focused on relationships (saying what patients want to hear). How does one honor God in helping patients say “yes” to the treatment they need?

Jesus entered the Samaritan woman’s life with a discussion of matters that meant the most to her. He took up residence in Zaccheus’ life with an offer to spend time at his table, something no one else in town would have even considered. By meeting people where they were—entering into relationship with them on the human level—Jesus was able to enter into relationship with them on a higher, spiritual level. The result in each case: eternal salvation.

For the last year I’ve worked as a full-time practice administrator in a practice where the two doctors had a combined four years of practice experience. It had been seven years since I actually worked in a dental practice. After all, coaches need continuing education, too! I will transition out of that role on December 31, but the lessons I’ve learned there have strengthened my understanding of ministry and dentistry. The doctors wanted me to present all major treatments to patients. Very quickly I discovered how much more I enjoyed that role and how much more successful it was when I used the new patient interview to get to know the patient and decision-makers. Most folks don’t visit the dentist expecting a $10,000 treatment plan or even a $5,000 one! Having a genuine connection to the patient other than the clinical connection helps you to help them make their best decision. Good relationships make it possible to discuss the fine print of financing plans that cost the practice 10 percent but could end up costing the patient 27 percent! It makes it possible to talk frankly about alternate plans that are free for the practice and risk-free for them. And down the road when payment issues arise—as they always do from time to time—the integrity of the relationship you have with the patient will make all the difference in the world in resolving the matter and retaining the patient.

So decide now to get some R&R in 2017. Every team member should be focused on genuinely connecting with patients. Whether the difficult discussions are clinical ones to be taken up in the treatment room or financial ones to be taken up in the consultation room, focusing on people always leads to the high road of integrity. It also produces the most lasting results. It worked for Jesus with the Samaritan Woman and with Zaccheus. It will work for you.

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