Togetherness at work

I have recently been thinking how much I value the team. I appreciate being able to send my patients out of the surgery to be looked after by capable, caring receptionists, who won’t be rude to them, and might even reinforce my advice.

Years ago I remember listening to my patients concerns, making them feel comfortable and reassured only to hear them being verbally battered by an ill-tempered receptionist when they left me. I was saddened that all my efforts were being undone but was unable be in more than one place and, without a nurse, had the surgery to clear.

At present the dentist and I take our patients out to reception and hand them over, so to speak, to the reception team. We can exchange banter, check that the correct aids are being purchased and the dentist can add his greeting. It’s as if we are all connected and speaking the same language. I’m sure patients pick up on our approach and feel part of the family.

I often go to collect a patient in the waiting room and find a general conversation going on, even between people who do not know each other. They are united in a common activity and respond to the relaxed atmosphere. I think it comes under the heading ‘good ambience’ which is an important factor in any practice.

We have only two surgeries in this practice and when I’m there on my own patients remark ‘You’re not very busy are you?’ I explain that I only need one patient at a time to keep me busy. If there’s more than one I get in a panic because it means either I’m running late or the next one is very early but I suppose they do think it strange if they’re waiting on their own. We often fail to see things from the patient’s perspective. The number of times I’ve been stressed out and anxious because I’ve kept someone waiting, rush to the waiting room with an apology only to have them greet me in exasperation saying, ‘Oh, I just wanted to finish reading the article in this magazine.’ You just can’t win sometimes, can you?

The worst practices I’ve worked in had the hygienist surgery tucked away from everyone else, on another floor or down a separate corridor. When walking to and from the surgery I rarely saw any other staff member, no one to shout a greeting to or remind them I was there. I was never offered a drink and would often come out of the surgery at night to find everyone had gone home! The final straw was when the practice gained Investors in People status for which, I learned later, all staff members have to be interviewed; all except me apparently! Why are hygienists sometimes invisible? The situation is improving slowly but you all must have the same sort of gripes as me which is why our regional meetings are so important. Only another hygienist would understand.

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