We have previously focused on the steps to take once you encounter a disabling illness/accident. Unfortunately many times the practitioner will be incapacitated and unable to make decisions or function. Although this may only be temporary, the stress that your spouse will be under is crushing. In order to assist your spouse, we are recommending a few steps to take before you transition to the more formal protocol that we reviewed in our previous posts.
Whether your husband or wife is in the ICU or Cardiac rehabilitation unit, many times you will be required to make decisions related to your spouse’s dental practice. Please consider the following recommendations for dental spouses.
Take care of your wife/husband. You are their best advocate. SEEK THE BEST IN MEDICAL CARE. Second opinions are always advised, and monitoring of what is being done is critical to survival. The first few days should center on survival. The dental practice can wait.
Be aware that your spouse may deny that they are injured or ill. Denial is a strong emotion and comes on early. Be supportive and understanding. Let your spouse know that his/her dental practice is in good hands and you will work hard to get them healthy and able to return to work.
Contact your dental office manager and business partners if they exist. Do your best to explain what is going on and they can take over from there. Let they worry about rescheduling patients and informing the rest of the staff. Involve your immediate family at your discretion.
You should have about 2 weeks to work with prior to initiating your practice continuity plan. Many vacations last that amount of time, and the practice can tolerate a brief interruption in care. If your spouse participates in a group mutual-aid coverage agreement, call its members and get some assistance in emergency care, otherwise call a dental friend to “cover” the office temporarily. In the meantime, you should be closely monitoring your spouse’s progress.
Put your spouse’s practice continuity plan into effect. This is a legal document and your spouse’s attorney should have a copy. If you don’t have one, address who is going to run the practice, who is going to pay the staff, and who is in charge while your spouse is away. You may contact your attorney to draw up a short notice plan if necessary.
Keep the dental practice staff informed. Your staff is an important asset to the practice’s value. They can alleviate patient anxiety and allow for easy transition of your spouse back to work.
Avoid the temptation of knee-jerk decisions. It is very likely you will not know how long this disability will last. Approaching the disability with an optimistic attitude and assume things will work out in the short run. There will always be time to be pessimistic later. You don’t need to sell the practice in a week and IT WILL NOT LOSE VALUE initially.
Keep your financial advisor informed, and avoid making major changes in your financial plans. As we mentioned earlier, contacting your practices’ attorney is an option. Consider using social media to keep patients, friends, and staff informed of your spouse’s progress.
Call your spouse’s dental peers/friends. You will be surprised at the positive and helpful response you both will receive. This is absolutely critical, and we have found this to the best support available to an injured/ill dentist who is facing disability either short or long-term.
Congratulations for not panicking, you have made some positive and helpful decisions. Continue to work with your spouse and the rehabilitation plan your physicians have established. Having your spouse take the time completely familiarize you with how your dental practice runs will have made this process much easier.
If it turns out your spouse’s injury or illness is going to last for a while, refer to the ten steps previously outlined/posted on this site that discuss practice disability insurance, practice continuation, and practice transition recommendations.TEN STEPS TO SURVIVE DISABILITY