One of the clinical supervisors at uni used a phrase so often that it has stuck with me:
"Failing to plan is the same as planning to fail!"
In dentistry it means that if you start a procedure without having planned what you are going to do it is highly unlikely you will be able to get the best possible outcome. A well run dental practice requires a lot of planning but a lot of that planning can be made less of a burden just by being organised.
Early on in your career there can be a lot of pressure to do things quickly. That pressure can come from the reception staff trying to squeeze more patients in or from your nurse saying that they need to leave by a certain time tonight, or from yourself when you hear about the speed that other dentists work to. However speed isn't king. In my opinion it is far more important to concentrate on good outcomes and efficiency. Then the speed will come.
Being organised can mean many things. Here are a few examples of things that I do to make better use of my time either because it means I can work more efficiently or my nurse and reception staff can do their jobs better without having to bother me while I am concentrating on high quality dentistry.
Annotate your daylist.
We use computerised notes but always also have a printed daylist on the side in case of computer failure. The first thing I do every morning is annotate my daylist. I use different highlighters to make it clear to the nurse which patients are NHS/private/denplan. I also highlight everything that is not an examination (sometimes it might say exam on the daylist but I know we are also planning on doing imps etc). And for every treatment appt I will go into the notes and refresh my memory about what is planned. I will then write basic info on the daylist saying "UR4 composite" etc.
There are many benefits of doing this. It means that I know I have carefully examined my day before it starts. If a note comes from reception I can more quickly advise them whether I have space that day to squeeze someone in or not. It also means that if I am running late the turnaround from one pt to the next can be much quicker. I know what is coming up and my nurse can very easily see what to get out for the next pt.
To do list.
The next thing I do is open 2 word documents. One contains my template notes which I will discuss in more detail another time. The other document is my "To do list". This has different sections but is pretty much my go to document whenever I have 5 minutes spare. The main headings are:
Things to research (such as materials or techniques I have seen on the forums I want to look up later).
People to contact. Whether that is pts to call or write to or reps I want to meet with etc
Cases to consider. When I know I have some big cases coming up which need reflecting upon before the pt next returns.
Paperwork. If I know any of my documents need reviewing such as postops etc
So this means that if a pt doesnt turn up then I can find something useful to fill my time with.
Organise your materials.
I really like the cheap plastic organiser trays from ebay. It makes it simple to store many items regullary used for one procedure. It means that the nurse needs to get fewer things out of the cupbaords while setting up. It also means that stock management can be done at a glance too. I have 2 related to placing/shaping composite, one for endo, one for crown preps. If you need larger spaces then cut out a section with a stanley blade and if you want smaller sections then fold a business card and sellotape into place.
Organise your papers.
I'm not talking about the filing. That I leave to the nurses because they have their system that they are happy with. I'm talking about your in tray and the paperwork you need access to on a daily basis. My quick access paper system can be seen in the photos section. This contains sections for "to file", "to scan", "standard pt info sheets for crowns etc", "current complex cases being considered", "whitening instructions", "new patient packs", "lab sheets", "commonly used referral forms". This in tray was an amazon basics one and it does the job fine.
Once again, being organised can mean many things. These are a few of the things that I have found help me keep things running smoothly. If you have other useful ideas please feel free to share them here.
Dr Chris Harper