5 Strategies to Alleviate Stress in Dental Practice Staff

March 29, 2024
July 17, 2024
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Stress is an unavoidable part of running a clinic. Because there are a thousand things to do and hundreds of patients to keep happy. Which can leave the front desk personnel strung out and exhausted.

According to Dental Economics, dentists are one of the most stressed in the healthcare industry. This stress can also affect the front desk staff. Which in turn, can affect patients and other members of the clinic. This type of stress is called occupation stress.

Steps to Reducing Stress Factors or Their Intensity

While many people claim that occupational stress is an occupational hazard, it does not have to be so. And this is why reducing stress becomes important. From low morale to difficult patients, there are too many stress factors that any one person can control.

And so it becomes important to handle stress and reduce it as much as possible. Moreover, increased stress can cause a plethora of mental and physical illnesses. Leaving your staff more troubled than before. The healthier (mentally and physically) your staff is, the better they will perform. Which benefits you and your clinic.

Eliminating stress is almost impossible. However, there are a few ways to decrease stress triggers in your office.

1. Set Realistic Goals

The most important factor: set realistic goals. Many offices are understaffed with overworked staff members. Therefore, front desk staff ends up having very little downtime to relax, inside or outside the office.

Hence, it becomes important to remember that font desk staff, no matter how good they might be at their jobs, are still people. And there is only so much work they can do in a day. Piling on too much work can put undue pressure on the staff.

Stress from overworking has drastic effects on professionals, such as,

  • Cognitive fatigue and exhaustion
  • Professional burnout
  • Anxiety (can occur alongside depression)
  • Increased irritability (leading to an increase in workplace conflicts)
  • Poor sleep or appetite
  • Low productivity and drive

These are just a few effects overwork can have on staff. With the intensity of work that front desk staff has to deal with, oftentimes the weekend is not enough to recuperate and recharge.

How do you set realistic goals?

goal setting in dentistry

SMART goals are a great way to make sure that you are not stocking a lot of work onto someone's plate. SMART stands for :

  • Specific - what do you want them to do? It can be a task like filing records or making follow-up calls.
  • Measurable - how many? File away 8 patients' records? Call up 15 patients to follow up?
  • Achievable - can the staff finish this in a day? Or will it be too much, along with their existing workload?
  • Relevant - is it relevant to their role and job?
  • Time-bound - how long would this task realistically take?

The SMART framework is a great technique to employ if you have a medium to the large-sized clinic with a sizable front desk staff. This way, you can make sure that work is allocated and that the staff can achieve the goals of the day.

2. Delegate and Schedule Work Evenly

It is important to play to an employee's strengths to maximize quality and work efficiently. One employee can't be good at everything. Or to be able to do all the front desk work. Someone will be good at making calls, while someone else will be great at filing records. And this is where delegation comes in.

How to effectively delegate work as a means of reducing stress?

  • Knowing what to delegate.

You can not delegate some tasks like performance reviews or conflict management. Since there will be a few things that only the head of the department should handle. Tasks like appointment calls, and tracking patients through their treatment can be delegated.

  • Whom to delegate to.

A few employees will be great with running appointments, some will be good at calling patients. Delegate tasks that are supported by the employee's skill set. Don't assign follow-up tasks to someone who is not very good at customer service. It will not be as effective as assigning filing work to them, which they might excel at.

  • Provide access to resources for the task.

Employees will require a certain level of access to clinic resources to complete their delegated tasks. This means that they need a certain level of authority to utilize resources in the office. It is much easier for employees to have access based on roles rather than having to repeatedly ask to use the resources.

  • Do not micromanage.

Everyone hates being micromanaged, and it puts more strain on the person doing the micromanaging as much as the person who is being micromanaged.

How it affects those who are being micromanaged:
  • A feeling of loss of control
  • Increased stress from being constantly watched
  • Low mental health due to the stress
  • Limits creativity and flexibility
  • Increases turnover
  • Feeling of intrusion into professional life
How does it affect those who micromanage:
  • Increased stress due to keeping track of delegated work
  • Lack of time to accomplish other work
  • Takes up a lot of time (re-caching work done)
  • Amplifies perfectionism traits
  • Creates a lack of boundaries

3. Prioritize Work and Set Aside Enough Break Time

In an ideal workday, your employees will finish up all work that was on the schedule for the day. Regrettably, ideal days are sparse, if they exist at all. This means that your employees will have a few tasks left at the end of the day that they will have to pursue the next day. Now, most leftover tasks are considered to be the priority the next day.

The truth is that not all leftover tasks will be a priority. It would depend on your team and the company goals. Moreover, assigning priority is one of the most important parts of delegating tasks. Your employees need to know what they need to get to first and which tasks can be completed later.

Along with outlining priorities and scheduling tasks for the day; break time is another thing that needs to be factored in. Breaks in the walking day allow the staff to destress and shake off the build-up of tension. Additionally, break time can be used to have a snack, take a short walk, or socialize with fellow employees. It allows them to focus on their well-being in between work, leading to better morale and productivity.

4. Reducing Stress by Encouraging Open Communication

The clinic is as much an office as it is a medical establishment. Therefore, open communication is the key to any successful and safe working environment. That can only be achieved if the organization and seniors make the working space safe to discuss. This not only applies to updates on delegated tasks but also to any problems that may arise.

Employees should be able to approach their seniors or heads of departments with their problems and issues. Having open communication channels for every member of the team is important. It can help in reducing stress and boosting morale.

Simply having the option to approach seniors with problems can put employees at ease. Also, such open communication can result in increased productivity, lower stress levels, and increased job satisfaction.

5. Automate Repetitive and Mundane Tasks

Within the font desk department, many tasks are repetitive and mundane. Such tasks can easily be automated, freeing up the front desk to pursue more complex tasks. While a certain number of mundane/repetitive tasks are good, too many of them can negatively affect your employees.

There are several programs that you can subscribe to. These programs provide a plethora of services that can make the front desk staff's lives smoother and easier.

Some tasks that you can automate are:

  • Data entry
  • Data extraction
  • Appointment reminders and confirmations
  • Customer tracking throughout their treatment
  • Scheduling patient communications, emails, newsletters, etc.

FAQs for Reducing Stress for Dental Practice Front Desk Staff

Are there any techniques you recommend to help front desk staff manage situations with difficult patients?

Techniques for handling difficult patients include de-escalation training, role-playing scenarios so staff know how to respond, and empowering staff to know they can involve you when a situation escalates.

Do you have any suggestions for team-building activities or fostering a more positive atmosphere in the office?

Open communication is a great start, but here are some ways to build on that:

  • Team-building activities: Organize social events or team lunches to encourage bonding and a sense of community.
  • Recognition and appreciation: Publicly acknowledge your staff's achievements and hard work. A simple "thank you" can go a long way.
  • Positive reinforcement: Focus on positive feedback and celebrate successes, not just dwelling on mistakes.

Are there specific ways to make breaks more effective for stress reduction?

Here are some ideas to maximize their stress-relieving potential: Encourage your dental staff to take a short walk outside — fresh air and sunshine can be a great mood booster. Offer short guided meditations or breathing exercises that staff can do during breaks to help them de-stress. And promote social interaction in your dental practice — breaks are a good time for staff to chat and unwind with colleagues, fostering a sense of camaraderie.

Stress can be caused by feeling overwhelmed or unsure of your abilities. Are there any recommendations for professional development opportunities for front desk staff?

Professional development is crucial! Offer skills training on topics relevant to their role (like insurance billing or communication skills). Cross-training staff in other areas of the practice should be considered to alleviate boredom and provide a sense of accomplishment when they learn new skills. Lastly, you can encourage attendance at industry events to stay updated on best practices and connect with other dental professionals.

By implementing these strategies alongside the tips from the blog, you can create a more positive and stress-free work environment for your front desk staff, leading to a happier team and a more efficient dental practice.

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