You don’t have to do this…”Things They Didn’t Teach You at Dental School”

An excerpt from the forthcoming book, “101 Things They Didn’t Teach You at Dental School”

“This above all: to thine own self be true, And it must follow, as the night the day, Thou canst not then be false to any man.” Polonius. Hamlet, Act 1, Scene 3.

Is Dentistry really what you want to do? You don’t have to.

Many dentists made the decision about what to study at university in their mid-teens. A time of life that is short on maturity, experience and insight. Parents, teachers and career advisers see dentistry as a well-remunerated, socially acceptable profession with a good secure future. 

Unfortunately a number of dentists are ill suited to a profession that makes extensive physical, mental and emotional demands. How many of us have the nerve to say that it’s not what we want?

After 5 years as an undergraduate and carrying a large student debt it is a very brave new graduate who would dare tell their parents and family that they have chosen the wrong subject to study. Humanities and pure sciences graduates would be fortunate to continue with their subjects. It is only the vocational degree where the graduate is able, or expected, to follow the career pathway without a second thought.

Socially, to turn away is akin to leaving your fiancée at the altar, yet an individual is to be admired for admitting that they don’t feel the commitment needed to make a happy marriage. 

Turn things on their head, if you know in your heart of hearts that you are unfulfilled and unhappy being a dentist isn’t it better to say so sooner than later? How many more miserable years do you want to tolerate? How much stress and heartache can you endure once you have admitted to yourself that you’re in the wrong place? 

There are far too many dentists who have plodded on through their BDS and Foundation Training then on to associate posts and partnerships without considering the future or an alternative.

They think this is the way that it has to be, it will get better, easier, less of trial to get out of bed in the morning – next year. Living from holiday to holiday they get little fulfilment from the work they do or the people for whom they are supposed to care. 

Often these are the ones who succumb to the stressors. The use of alcohol and other drugs, gambling or other addictions along with failed relationships are commonplace.

I have attended funerals of apparently happy and successful dentists who have taken their own lives because they could only see that one way out.

These problems are not unique to dentists and many people as Thoreau put it “live lives of quiet desperation”. 

What else is possible? 

Answer – anything that you want to be. There are ex-dentists who are successful architects, writers, lawyers, and musicians. I know a former orthodontist who now builds dry stone walls (and will teach you how to build them too). The discipline of your training means that you are suited to re-train.

Stuck in a government-devised rut, which rewards quantity not quality?

If you want to change then say so, and do something about it. This isn’t a rehearsal; there is no second chance at life, no re-run. If you want to be better, nobody else can do it for you.

 

The more things change…

From the editorial in the current BDJ

Each generation believes that it discovers everything for the first time and suffers each difficulty anew. Is it that a certain personality type was (and is still) attracted to dentistry? If so, does this partly explain today’s burnout statistics as much as it did then? ‘In 1913, Dormer was declared bankrupt, which he stated was caused by continuing ill-health … he had left his previous job as an assistant due to a nervous breakdown but had been unable to work up a business sufficiently large to meet his living expenses, been in financial difficulties for some years and had taken loans from money lenders.’

As usual a great read, and I’ve never been to Bexhill-on-Sea either.

 

Sleep isn’t for Wimps.

I had a nickname in my first year at university – “The Midnight Rambler” – I didn’t sleep very well and used to wander around the halls of residence looking for people with their lights on to share a coffee and have a chat. (I suppose the coffee was a clue…)

I finally got around to reading “Why we sleep” by Malcolm Walker and wish it had been compulsory reading 40 years ago, I might have had a more productive life rather than a more manic one. I grew through a period where it was considered macho to go without sleep, I remember the plastic surgery firm at Withington Hospital boasting at 11pm how they had been in theatre all day and were just about to go back there. I always said that I needed less sleep than others – in hindsight I was wrong.

Walker talks about productivity and the effect that sleep (or its lack) has on it. He quotes this article and makes the point that KPIs in most companies are measuring things that are easy to measure – revenue, goals accomplished, profit, new customers etc. Most of these are affected by employee traits creativity, intelligence, motivation, effort, efficiency, effectiveness, sociability, emotional stability and honesty. All of these are systematically dismantled by insufficient sleep.

Would you let a surgeon who had only had 4 hours sleep operate on you? I wouldn’t. 

Would you let a woman who only slept for four hours a night run a country? I wouldn’t do that either.

It’s a great book that will frighten you and convince you to make an early night and sufficient sleep a part of your routine.

Buy it HERE.

 

Just say no….

It’s easy isn’t it?

To say “No”.

Really?

I would love to say that having been close to and through burnout on a few occasion as both an employed dentist, a practice owner and (even) as a coach – yeah, yeah I know, I should know better – saying “no” is still one of the hardest things to do.

You want, and think you need, the business, the popularity, the money.

You don’t want to turn someone away, to use a negative word, to let them down.

What if this is the last person who asks you?

What if this leads to a hugely successful opening or opportunity?

What will they think of you when you turn them down?

We all know that we are all trying to achieve too much, demands on the only thing that everyone has (time) are growing, last week I visited Practice Owner and mother of three sorry, Mother of three and Practice Owner, Lauren Harrhy and marvelled at her composure and balance as she seeks to carry on her good work and become a BDA rep. 

Tony Barton from Red Kite World who was one of my teachers during my Coach Training sent me a link this morning. It features Greg McKeown and his book “Essentialism – The disciplined pursuit of less”.

I own this book but haven’t read it – yet.

Why? Because I haven’t found the time.

Why? Because I keep saying yes to other things.

Take a look at Greg speaking

Burnout – Physicians

From The Lancet 13 July 2019.

Hui Wang, a 32-year-old Chinese ophthalmologist, experienced sudden cardiac death on June 30, after working with fever for 6 days in Beijing. Hui was the father of a 1-year-old girl, and married to a doctor, who donated Hui’s corneas to two patients after his death…

According to a viewpoint published in the Chinese Medical Journal, reports on sudden deaths among Chinese physicians sharply escalated from 2008 to 2015, and most of the deaths, resulting from heavy work load, were male surgeons and anaesthesiologists in tertiary hospitals in large cities…

Physician burnout, defined as a work-related syndrome involving emotional exhaustion, depersonalisation, and a sense of reduced personal accomplishment, is not only a serious concern in China but also has reached global epidemic levels. Evidence shows that burnout affects more than half of practising physicians in the USA and is rising…

Physician burnout, defined as a work-related syndrome involving emotional exhaustion, depersonalisation, and a sense of reduced personal accomplishment, is not only a serious concern in China but also has reached global epidemic levels…

Evidence shows that burnout affects more than half of practising physicians in the USA and is rising. The 2018 Survey of America’s Physicians Practice Patterns and Perspectives reported that 78% of physicians had burnout, an increase of 4% since 2016. Furthermore, 80% of doctors in a British Medical Association 2019 survey were at high or very high risk of burnout, with junior doctors most at risk, followed by general practitioner partners. Increasingly, physician burnout has been recognised as a public health crisis in many high-income countries because it not only affects physicians’ personal lives and work satisfaction but also creates severe pressure on the whole health-care system—particularly threatening patients’ care and safety.

The 11th Revision of ICD (ICD-11) in May, 2019, provided a more detailed definition of burnout, characterising it as a syndrome of three dimensions—feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion, increased mental distance from one’s job or feelings of cynicism or negativism about one’s job, and reduced professional efficacy…

Addressing physician burnout on an individual level will not be enough, and meaningful steps to address the crisis and its fundamental causes must be taken at systemic and institutional levels with concerted efforts from all relevant stakeholders. Tackling physician burnout requires placing the problem within different contexts of workplace culture, specialties, and gender. Physician wellbeing has long been under-recognised in LMICs, and physicians’ sudden death and suicide due to overwork—the consequences of extreme burnout—have not been uncommon in many Asian countries. With rapid development of medical sciences, it is time to use medical advances to benefit the health and wellbeing of all people, including physicians themselves…

%d bloggers like this: