If ever there was a time to have an ATTITUDE, when you become a disabled dentist that time has come.  Be a lion not a lamb. Confidence is attractive and contagious. When you come to the conclusion that your disability is going to last for a while, the time to start planning for transition has arrived.

Learn from your apparent misfortune, and you will never lose. Transition can mean many things. To some dentists it may mean retirement, to others it may mean moving to a new city and starting over again. Whatever it means, it is a bridge you will have to cross if you cannot return to work at your prior level of skill in a timely fashion.  Realizing that you will need to make some important decisions regarding your future is the first step. Once you make this decision, the next step is to develop a list of options. SEE OUR PRIOR POSTING ON STEPS TO TAKE WHEN DISABILITY STRIKES.FEAR MAKES THE WOLF BIGGER THAN HE IS-TEN STEPS TO SURVIVE DISABILITY

The first decision you make has already been made. You survived. You are alive. You have chosen life and are ready for the challenges of a survivor.  Entire books and television series have been devoted to survival. Disability survival is exactly like those scenarios.  Sit down and make list of what you have to work with. Don’t waste time on what you can’t do, use your energy to concentrate on what you can do.

In addition to choosing a potential new career option, you need to deal with the past early in your transition. If this means sale of your former practice, starting early is usually advisable. Real estate decisions, equipment sales, and staff transition decisions will all play a part of the process of transition.  Be a leader and be willing to delegate authority to make some of these decisions. You are still in charge; but smart, successful leaders use the talented people they surround themselves with. Use your best judgement. Close friends, your family and your spouse all have real value in this situation.  Use caution with allowing your staff to participate in these roles, remember they need a job and will usually be looking out for themselves first.

Realize that your transition options are only limited by your imagination. With the significant investment in education that you have made and the invaluable experience of running a successful business, you have the background to go in almost any direction.  If you are ready to retire, fine; go ahead and realize your dreams of travel and grandchildren.  If not, get ready for a wild ride and plan on really working on transitioning to your next endeavor. You must be willing to adapt to your current condition. Survival is dependent on your ability to bend in the wind.  You might not be physically capable to do all the things that you once did, but you can do something.  Take account of what you can do and tie that to future opportunities.

As a dentist, you do not have to give up on the dental profession. You may eventually recover the abilities that were lost in your illness or accident. You started a practice once, you can do it again. You may have to start as a dental associate at first.  If returning to clinical practice is not entirely possible, consider remaining in the field by exploring one of the many fields directly associated with the profession. Strongly consider dental academics/teaching, consulting, or dental sales.  Of course, volunteer missions are always a great option. See our past postings on alternative career options. Understand that 10% of all dentists do not practice clinical dentistry. This may be the time for you to join the thousands of dentists who use their training in other fields.

Once you have your list of transition options, take time to develop a budget. There will be a cost to go from one field to another. Research your prospective position, and look for opportunities that are available. Talking at length with your family and spouse on your plans is critical. They need to know what you want to do, and how they can help. Don’t forget to consult with your dental peers for ideas and support. Involve your attorney, financial advisors, and business consultants. The more information you have, the better decisions you will make in the long run.

There are many question that need to be answered. Use your time wisely to answer them and always seek out help from your family and friends. Will I need to move to a new city? Where do I go for help?  When do I need to get started?  What about my children?  Who will take care of my former staff and patients?  Can I afford to start over again?  What am I going to do now?  These are tough and scary questions, but they don’t need to be that hard. HOW DO YOU EAT AN ELEPHANT? – ONE BITE AT A TIME   Start with one question/problem and move on to the next. Don’t get frustrated. You sometimes can’t see the forest because of all the trees. Put your plans and thoughts in writing. This will quickly simplify things and help you to gain perspective. By getting to higher ground and looking down on the problem it will  be much smaller and manageable.

No one has an expiration date stamped on their back.  All of us must work together to make the most of the time we have. There is no time limit on your decision to transition. Start today or start next month. Be your best advocate, but realize that this process has to start eventually. No decision is final. So what if you make a mistake, at least you are moving forward.

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