Whether you have the been in an accident or have been diagnosed with an illness, please personally review our recommendations. Involve your spouse in this process. Possibly, they may be the one reading this. By no means do we believe these actions are complete, but reflect our personal experiences. We understand that each individual’s circumstances are different. In addition , we understand the whole process is dynamic and changing over time.
STOP, take a deep breath. You do have some time to work with. Dental practices are a living entity, but they can function without a dentist for a time. Routine vacations last for 7-14 days and that period of time gives you a baseline to work with. Your patient’s will understand and your staff is well-trained.
Face the fact that you are disabled. Previously we have discussed the emotions you will face to include denial, depression, anger, fear, and anxiety. Once you have them under temporary control, determine how bad you are injured. If you are permanently disabled and will never work as a dentist again, the steps you take are definitely different from one who has a chance to return to practice. Of course, DO YOU REALLY KNOW FOR SURE?
Make the conscious decision not to be broken by your illness or accident. Understand that only 10% of disabilities are accidental and 90% are due to illnesses. Take an active role in your recovery and rehabilitation. Remember that you are now the patient and need to follow your physician’s treatment plans exactly as presented. Don’t be afraid to research your situation and seek second opinions if warranted. Take care of yourself.
Put your practice continuity contingency plan into effect. This should cover who will run your practice, who will staff the practice, who will pay the bills and who will make the day-to-day business decisions. If you have a mutual-aid agreement with other dentists in place, this is the time to call them and ask for help. Of course if you are in a group practice or partnership this step is easier. Keep your employees informed. They need to talk with you or your spouse and know your plan. Maintaining your staff keeps value in the practice, alleviates patient anxiety, keeps continuity going, and allows transition back to work much easier.
Ask for help. No one survives on their own. Talk with your spouse and family and let them know how you feel and what you want. Dentists have dedicated so much of their lives to their practices that the devastation that follow a disability is very often directly related to the severe “separation anxiety” that follows. SEEK OUT YOUR PEERS. You will find that some of the best support you can receive comes from talking with other dentists. Call your local society, friends, and even the AADD for help. Your faith can be a rock to lean on.
Get proper perspective of your situation and start making good decisions. This will involve taking decisive action and being smart. Continue to pay your bills. Contact your malpractice company and temporarily suspend your coverage. You may be entitled to a refund. Contact your local dental society, they can forward forms to the ADA to place you in a disabled status. You may be entitled to a refund. Take action to find a dentist to staff your practice while you are gone. Contact your attorney to ensure you are protected with a good contract if you enter into negotiations. Make sure you protect your patient base and include a covenant not to compete and a non-solicitation agreement. Contact your financial advisors and inform them of your situation and adjust your portfolio accordingly.
Maintain all your licenses and certifications. This will include your state dental license, anesthesia licenses, and professional society memberships. You may be able to temporarily suspend them depending on your state, but there may be a cost. In addition, reactivating them may be a difficult challenge. You will need to continue your continuing education requirements if you are disabled for a longer period. Keep up with your Basic Life Support Requirement and don’t let it expire. Keep up with your billing process at your office and maintain your certifications with your insurance companies .
Contact your disability insurance company. You most likely have a 90 day waiting period prior to collecting benefits, but should not wait more than 60 days to notify them and start your application. You may want to speak with an attorney if you are disabled for psychiatric illness or an orthopedic injury such as a back/neck problem; Otherwise you are probably safe to submit a claim on your own. Completely understand the claim process by reading the extensive posts online about the challenges of disability claims.
Start building resilience to the tragedy of your disability. Now that you have faced your demon and made the decision to fight back, you must start working on your plans to resume your practice. Setting a timeline and realistic goals are the first actions to be taken. Involve your family and dental peers in the decision-making process. Keep your staff and patients informed of your progress. You will have the final say in this ordeal, but be honest with your evaluation of your capabilities. You may return to work as before or at a lesser level due to the lingering effects of your disability. Understand your disability policy may pay you a decreased benefit if you can only function at a decreased level. Of course, if you cannot practice at all; you would be entitled to full benefits.
No one promised you a happy ending. If it looks like you may never return to practice or that it may take years, be prepared to look at giving back by pursuit of another profession or alternative career. Understand that 10% of dentists function in non-clinical positions nationwide. These include opportunities in teaching, academics, sales, insurance adjusting, consulting, governmental appointments/positions, and overseas volunteer opportunities. These are just sample of the many ways we can give back and utilize the invaluable education and experience we have accumulated over the years. The AADD will be publishing detailed lists over the coming months along with contact information.
“DON’T PRAY FOR AN EASY LIFE, PRAY FOR THE STRENGTH TO ENDURE A DIFFICULT ONE”.