Just how injured or ill are you?   If you want to return to Dentistry, this is a big question to answer.  Maybe even your attending physicians have no idea, but at some point you are going to need to determine just how badly you are hurt. This is a very important determination, and it will be unlikely that you will even have a ball park estimate at first.  Depending on the type of injury or illness,  you most likely will be able to place yourself in one of three general categories.

The first category is the one the one we all want to be in. You know you are injured or sick, and you are very confident you are going back to work.  The timing is the big question now.  You may have contacted malaria on vacation to South America or had a car accident breaking both your legs. Both scenarios are survivable with a favorable prognosis in most circumstances. You will likely be able to practice dentistry once fully recovered. At this point you will need to work on a detailed recovery plan (we will post information on this plan soon). This plan will outline a tentative return to work date, and an estimate of your capabilities at that time.  Input from your physicians and rehabilitation specialists will be very important in developing this plan.  If it appears that this will be a long recovery, then the issues of practice sale/transition options may be considered. See our posting on practice contingency plans.

The second category is much more difficult. You have no idea whether you will be able to return to work. Many of us will fall into this category and subsequently change to one of the other two.  You may have been diagnosed with lymphoma or had a cardiac arrest requiring a bypass surgery.  Both scenarios are challenging and have the potential to lead to permanent disability. The challenge you face is significant, and you will need help to get to the next step. Seek out your peers for support as well as your family. Be prepared for a long wait.  Like the siege of a castle in the middle ages. Your patience and willingness to adapt are important to use. Use all available sources of information. Seek second opinions from medical and rehab specialists. Talk with other disabled dentists to assist you in determining your potential. You may experience disappointment, but your attitude and willingness to compromise may assist you in making decisions. Time can either be your ally or enemy, you will have to choose. Eventually you will need to come to a conclusion.  I’m going to be able to return to dentistry ; or I’m hurt bad, but I’m ok  and I need to move on.

The third category is the one we hope to avoid. You have been injured so bad or are so ill that you do not have any prospect of working as a dentist again.  Of course, this also means you are alive. If you can think and make plans, you are still with us and have potential to adapt to your present circumstances. This may mean working in a different field or using your experiences and training to transition into a new position in any number of professions. The big question is how do you know? How do you really know that you are done? Using the scenario examples again, if you have macular degeneration and are blind or have traumatic amputation of your hands in a lawnmower accident this is not a question. We can’t answer this question for you. All we can say is you will know when you know.

We have previously discussed the steps to take when encountering a disabling illness or accident. Please refer to them and the posts on networking and transition.FEAR MAKES THE WOLF BIGGER THAN HE IS-TEN STEPS TO SURVIVE DISABILITYRemember you need to make the decision in the long run, but you are never too old to ask for help. Keep in touch with us and review our postings for more information.  Please contact us if you have any questions or comments.