AS TIME GOES BY. A truly iconic melody of the past. The lyrics are imbedded in our minds, and its hard to think of the song without thinking of the characters.  When you are lying in an ICU bed or laying on a stretcher in an Emergency Room, the clock is ticking.  As a dentist you will have a million things running through your mind.  Of course, YOU will be concerned about your survival.  Never the less, you will have a strong concern about your patients, staff, and practice.   Your years of education and training have given you a very strong bond to your profession.

As you condition stabilizes, you will realize that decisions have to be made. How much time do you have?  That is critical question.  With the clock running, stress and anxiety often dictate the poor decisions that subsequently are made. By looking at your situation in stages, you can make smart decisions regarding your future.

Your first concern is survival. You have taken vacations before, and a one-two week break in active practice has little effect on any dental practice. Your staff can easily rearrange your schedule and your patients take time off too. Use this time to your advantage. Rest and recuperate. You do not have to decide anything important now. Your most critical decision will be what to have for dinner. REST.

Once it appears that you will be out of work for more than a few weeks, you will enter the next phase of your journey. You will need to make arrangements to have your dental practice continue in your absence.  This should entail activation of a mutual aid agreement that ensures dentists are taking care of your patients.  It also should involve use of a prepared practice continuity plan to keep your practice running smoothly in your absence. We have previously discussed these plans and look here for more detailed information. Activate your Practice Continuity Plan    This phase of your recovery may last weeks or months.  You likely will not know an exact date when you can work again or if you will work again.  During this phase concentrate on getting better. Look for new treatments. Vigorously seek out second opinions and look to your medical colleagues for advice. You will need to need to concentrate and focus on rehabilitation and recovery.

The next phase of your ordeal will involve making some tough decisions. You have spent months on recovery and now is the time to concentrate on transition. You will need to honestly determine if you able to return to practice. This phase of recovery will start as you approach your first anniversary of your accident or illness.  You practice will lose value if you do not start considering a sale around that time.  If you are able to return to practice at reduced hours modify your practice goals and scope accordingly.  We will discuss practice sale in upcoming postings, but it is a very personal decision and assistance of your advisors and an attorney are recommended.

If you have returned to practice, we congratulate you on your survival. Enduring a major illness or surviving a severe accident is stress enough. Having to maintain an active dental practice in addition is very challenging.  Don’t let others tell you they are sorry for your illness or accident, remind them you are alive and moving on.  If you cannot function at the same capability or are unable to work, the time to transition to another field may have arrived. You have value and are still relevant. Use your experience to transition into teaching, consulting, or volunteer missions.

By breaking down your disability event into phases, you can allocate your time efficiently and make good life decisions.  Use time to your advantage and set goals at each phase. You do not have to be in a hurry, but you do have to set up a timeline for recovery and survival. Our lists of time phases is arbitrary, but can be used as a general guideline in your struggle with your illness or accidental injury. The most important thing to remember is  that each person’s situation is unique and being flexible is vital.  Use others experiences to guide your decisions and ease any concerns. You are not the first or the last to endure the unbearable, but this is your first time.  Look to your family and friends for support, and look to your dental peers for guidance and help with your practice.  You will find that the concern and empathy of your dental friends is extremely valuable and likely the best medicine for your situation.

You are on the clock and time is clicking. Remember that you own the clock and can unplug it at anytime. Reconnect it when  you are ready, and move on. You are in charge and can use the resources we have listed to not only survive but thrive.  See our recommendations you survive disability for guidance.TEN STEPS TO SURVIVE DISABILITY

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