Mini habit #1

Get to work 15 minutes early.

Allow me to put this in context. I am not a natural, perky, early riser – there are many days when I feel I have to drag myself out of bed, especially in the darker winter months. In my first job in Dentistry I lived on the same street as the practice I worked in – I could still never get to work early.

This is something I have had to work really hard on but has paid handsome dividends for how I practice. There are 4 reasons I can give for getting to work early which enhance my ability to communicate effectively with my patients.

1. I am more relaxed starting the day. Best case scenario is that I am 15 minutes early and I have time to slowly set-up, have a chat with staff and colleagues and ease myself into a day that is always busy and will inevitably throw me a curveball or two.

Worst case is alarm doesn’t go off, I forget something important, get stuck in traffic and I get delayed. I still have a 15 minute extra window of time to play with, increasing the likelihood to still start in a calm state of mind.

2. I read through my patient list and records. I make a mental note of any significant points relating to social history, so that when a patient comes in the door I am ready to ask how their holiday was, how are the kids/ grandkids, did you see the match last night? Most patients value a degree of small talk which puts them at ease and builds rapport. We are not just treating dental disease but a whole person.

3. From a clinical perspective I mentally prepare for any tricky appointments (whether it be related to treatment or patient management) , check lab-work is in (before the patient is sitting in the chair!), read notes left by reception relating to any patient concerns. I get myself in a headspace to do my best clinical work and also have some mental capacity left to communicate effectively with the patients.

4. I get time to tweak the ever-changing appointment list. Some patients need longer/ shorter times or maybe a reminder on the day to confirm their punctual attendance. Also the assistant may need a heads-up on some imminent difficult procedure or even simply to prepare for the inevitable back-to-back molar root canal appointments booked in by reception.

According to Johns et al “time and scheduling pressures were referred to by every dentist as a significant source of stress, substantially more than any other stressor” (1).

Get to work early and allow yourself the luxury of starting on time, as prepared as you possibly can, for the busy day ahead.

PS – this is a statement of the obvious but it needs to be said – you must start on time – if you start late you are on the back foot early in the day playing catch-up and patients, while they expect some degree of wait at medical appointments don’t expect to be kept late if they are the first of the day and really value punctuality if you generally run on time.


(1.) Johns et al. Source of occupational stress in NSW and ACT dentists. Australian Dental Journal. 2015

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