As my husband and three kids (ages 12, 10 and 8) zoom down the mountain ahead of me, I internally gave myself a high-five for enduring the prior tortuous years of attempting to ski with little ones. This experience has improved markedly from the way we used to ski together. I vividly remember carrying the majority of awkward ski gear, helping the kids walk in their ski boots, all while avoiding getting an eye poked out by the plethora of ski poles.
Inevitably, when we reached the actual slopes back in the early days, lift tickets in hand, gear in place, skis snapped on, and ready to jump on the lift; someone would say "I got to go potty!" Sweltering from the exertion, with sweat trickling down our backs inside our carefully layered clothing, our noses freezing from the chill, I thought many times, "why didn't we go to the beach?" Or better yet, "why didn't we stay at home?"
Dentistry can be much the same way.
For example, the implementation of interceptive orthodontics, multi-distalizing appliances in Class II orthodontic patients (tough!), and scanning patients digitally with the iTero 3D intraoral scanner.
After being in practice for several years, it may be time to break into another facet of dentistry. Perhaps sleep medicine, orthodontics, or implants is the path you've wanted to embark upon, but getting the appropriate equipment, training for the team, implementing new systems, etc. seems like an insurmountable struggle and one that leaves you feeling depleted before you’ve even started.
If you’re like me, you may have completed the necessary training, but you still feel less than adequate actually preforming the procedure on a patient. OR you return breathless with excitement and gusto from your continuing education, only to meet the blank stares of your team, as the they ask, "you want us to do what, with what tools, and how?" Aargh. These roadblocks zap momentum and bring the dream of progressing to a standstill.
Don't let the struggle prevent you from jumping on the ski lift and elevating your career to its full potential!
The preparation and the upward climb is always the toughest part. Just know that at the end of that "lift" is a downhill slope that will prove to be a exhilarating, challenging ride. If you stay grounded at the “lodge” or just decide to hit the "bunny slopes' in dentistry and stick to what is safe, the thrill will never be the same, nor will the rewards ever be as great.
Here are some tips to consider when deciding whether or not to "take the ski lift" to the next level in your dental career:
1) Surrender perfection: Set realistic expectations for yourself and your team. You will have trying times as you attempt to implement new things into the armamentarium. Your team may drag their heels. Set a timeline and adhere to it, but if things do not go according to plan, give yourself some leeway and keep striving to hit the next target.
2) Feed yourself: If you don’t feel confident enough to tackle the new procedure, take another course, or audit (sometimes at no/reduced fee) a course you have taken previously. Never stop learning and sustaining your growing mind.
3) Make sacrifices: Your team will notice what you are doing to make your new system a priority in your practice. How you spend your time, and what you keep doing reveals what you value most.
4) Talk about what you want often: Be ready to talk about why you want to go this new direction, what it means to you, why it excites you. Talk about it in the morning meeting, at lunch, in team meetings, and with colleagues. Share what you are learning with your team.
5) Connect with others: This is one of the biggest detriments in our profession. We are all so proud and worried that to ask for help/advice is to look weak or to fail. Seek help and wise counsel from those who have done it before. There are many resources out there, you just need to look and reach out.
6) Journey together: Walk alongside your team as you work to implement the new system. Be honest about the hard parts and share the joys. Admit when you're unsure about something and share when you learn something new. Ask for their feedback too! Our teams are incredible resources to draw from, so use their experiences to bolster your own.
7) Rely on your actions more than your words: What you do will either validate or weaken what you say. Don't just say “we are going to implement implants and recommend it over bridges from now on”, then go into the hygiene ops and treatment plan bridges all day. Be true to what you want.
8) Progress over perfection: Nike’s motto has real merit here. Each patient and procedure will get easier. Have confidence in yourself, and ask your team for their support as you get going.
9) Don't quit: No matter how defeated you feel, jump in there and do it. Remind yourself daily about why you are inspired to start this new path. Each patient is a potential success story waiting for you to touch them and make their smile come to life!
10) Pray: Sometimes you need the big guy upstairs to help you out!
So back to the ski slopes. . . remember that mental high-five I gave myself? That happened after 3 years of trying to launch my offspring down the mountain. There were many times when I wanted to hole up in the cozy lodge over a hot toddy and scrap the dream of soaring down the mountain together as a family, all of us giggling with glee. But I kept trudging up to the ski lift and rising slowly up the mountain, in hopes that this year would be a wee bit better than the one before. And you know what? It was. The payoff in 2018 was a terrific trip, complete with the fam all giggling with glee. At least I think they were, they were all ahead of me.