STOP, take a deep breathe. You have time to work with. Dental practices can easily tolerate a two week unscheduled break in services. Moderate vacations will last 7-14 days. Use this time to your advantage. DON’T MAKE DECISIONS IN HASTE. Get started on healing.
Face the fact that you are injured or ill. You need to be prepared for the emotions that come with unexpected accidents or illnesses. Denial,anxiety, depression, fear, and anger will be your constant companion. By acknowledging this, you will gain the strength to fight back. You can’t go back in time and alter the past. Make a list of what you can do, not what you can’t do. You will usually not know if you are disabled. It will take time to determine if you cannot do some or all tasks involved in your profession. Of importance is timing. Whether you are out for 6 weeks, 6 months, or 6 years the consequences to your practice can be significant.
Make the decision not to be broken by your situation. Concentrate on your recovery and rehabilitation. Follow your physicians orders and treatment plan to the letter. You are THE patient now. Take care of yourself. Don’t be afraid to research your condition and seek second opinions.
Put your practice continuity contingency plan into effect. This will include any mutual-aid agreements that you have in place. They will include who will run your practice, who will pay the bills, and who will make the day to day business decisions. Keep your staff informed. They are one of your most critical assets. They will keep your practice viable, alleviate patient anxiety over your condition, and add value to the practice. Staff continuity will greatly ease your transition back to work.
Ask for help. No one get through a severe injury or medical crisis alone. Reach out to your family, friends, and peers. We have found that peer support is a great source of real help when faced with a disability. TALK. It doesn’t matter if your discussing the weather or gardening tips. Just open up and let it go. Your faith will be a rock to lean on in the darkness.
Maintain all your licenses and certifications. There is a cost for these documents but the the risk of them expiring is real. It is often much harder to reinstate an expired permit or licenses than just pay your dues or licensing fee. In addition, you may have problems in billing through insurance with an expired license. You may have to continue earning CE credits if you are well enough to meet your state’s legal requirements. Some states may allow you to temporarily suspend your licenses. Check with your individual state. Keep your CPR up to date if you can. Monitor your billing process at your office and avoid having a large accounts receivable balance that may prove uncollectible if you delay in billing.
Start making good decisions. Get a good perspective of your situation. Determine how injured or sick you are. Contact your attorney and ensure you are protected if you begin entering in any transition negotiations. Contact your financial advisor and make appropriate changes to your portfolio.Notify your malpractice company and consider temporary suspension of coverage, – you may be eligible for a refund and can easily reactivate your policy later. Contact the ADA and check for sources of support and apply for temporary disabled status. You may be eligible for a refund in dues.
Contact your disability insurance company. You can file a claim as soon as you determine your tentative medical status. You most likely have a 90 day waiting period before benefits will be paid and should file a claim early to start your benefits on time. You may use an attorney to file your claim at your discretion. Be prepared to forward your office scheduling records prior to your event, your income tax returns, and all medical records. Discussion of your medical status with your physician is critical. You will need medical documentation of your disability. Understand your policy will likely still pay you benefits if you work at a decreased capability. These residual benefits are valuable; you paid for them, so don’t avoid applying for them
Develop a recovery plan. Start setting realistic recovery goals and formulate a timeline based on an estimated return to work date. Involve your physicians and family in developing this plan. Understand you may be able to function at a decreased capability and this may be temporary or permanent. Once you have a date, you can start scheduling a light load of patients at first. Involve your staff in these decisions. Base your plan on what you can do, not what you can’t do.
No one promised you a happy ending. Understand that you may be disabled for a long period of time. Be prepared for that possibility. If that means selling your current practice, accept the gift that you are alive. You started a dental practice once, you can do it again if you fully recover. Understand that 10% of dentists practice in non-clinical settings. There are many non-traditional positions and careers available too you. Give back to the profession and utilize the skills and experience that you have earned to benefit others. Your spouse and family will appreciate your dedication to not only survive, but thrive. YOU ARE A VALUABLE RESOURCE AND CAN HELP OTHERS.