Every dental practice has a staff of dedicated and caring individuals who make the practice a success. As a practicing dentist, you value your staff and realize their importance to your long-term survival in this competitive profession.  You have developed lasting friendships with your staff and count on them to support your practice of dentistry.  You will need them after your severe accident or disabling illness.

Your staff are not your friends.  They are your employees and you have developed friendships with them over time. This may sound harsh, but it is reality.  You may have developed special bonds with them over years of close and demanding practice, but they are not family.  When faced with a disabling illness or severe accidental injury, you will need to depend on your staff.  The same holds true when faced with any potential legal challenge.  Beyond the obvious, you need to treat your staff well and show them the highest respect. This does not guarantee that they will always back you when the chips are down.

Your staff has different concerns than you. They have their own priorities and families. They each have different financial situations and personal challenges.  They hopefully can be counted on to be loyal and trustworthy, but remember they will each have their own needs and views.  Be prepared for differences in opinion and questions of loyalty.  Your staff will tend to follow your lead and your good /bad habits will be fully exposed in the worst of times. Do not expect them to follow you blindly. They will only carry the torch of loyalty so far.

The best way to keep your staff on your side and ready to help is to keep them fully informed. The more information they have, the less they have to guess on. By involving them in the decision-making process, you allow them to participate in your situation and give them the freedom to make good decision for their lives and families. They will reward your openness with honesty and compassion.  They may be able to go without a paycheck for a while, but not forever. They may agree with your views of a situation but they are not your clone. Be understanding, and accept what you get. As we already mentioned, treat them well and hope for the best. Failure to do so, will lead to poor outcomes.

Keep your relationships with your staff professional. Treat them with respect and they will return with respect of you as a fellow professional. It doesn’t matter what position on your team they hold. Each person has value. Many dental staff are the primary wage earner in their family. This is a tremendous responsibility for them, and recognizing that is very important. Keep your staff in mind when planning your educational plans. Involve them with educational opportunities. By doing this, you acknowledge their professional status in your practice.

When facing a disabling illness or injury,  your staff will be on your side. Follow our recommendations and hopefully your journey will be smooth. Keep your staff informed. Treat them as professionals. Allow your staff to participate in making decisions.  All these things keep them involved and much more likely to remain loyal and reliable. If you able to return to work after a few months, you may be able to return to the same staff members. Have a party and celebrate your recovery!

Unfortunately, not all of us are going back to our office. Be prepared for some degree of separation anxiety. You may miss some of your patients, but we guarantee that you will miss your staff.  It is one of the more difficult challenges that a disability presents you with.  Do your best to cope and seek out your dental peers and family for grief support.  You may have not only lost your career,  but the staff you treasure too. You will have grief, because the your time with your staff has ended, often with little notice. Time will help, but it’s usually a long process of acceptance. Take heart, YOU AREN’T THE FIRST OR THE LAST. Look to our posting on the ten steps to survive disability.TEN STEPS TO SURVIVE DISABILITY. Once you recover, look to us for ideas to transition if you can’t return to work.





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