Many of us will reach a point in our dental career when we question if we are headed in the right direction. That question can be clouded by concern over personal and financial obligations. Fortunately, as dental professionals our training and education has given us the freedom to make sound, smart decisions on our future. This FREEDOM is a gift and sets our profession apart from numerous other career paths. By taking advantage of the untold number of opportunities available to a dental professional, we can not only survive, but thrive in the face of adversity.
Over 30% of our profession screens positive for depression. Many dentists feel their work schedule leaves little time for personal and family life. The rapidly changing practice of dentistry is causing ever-increasing levels of stress. The loss of autonomy due to managed care, the increasing competition levels in our communities, and increased need to maintain competency in a rapidly changing technologic profession ALL lead to burnout in some capacity for many.
Dentists are trained to avoid mistakes, so when they do occur; they may be tormented by self-incrimination and lack of acceptance. An exaggerated sense of responsibility is built into our training and our drive for perfectionism can lead to guilt and self-doubt. Given these undeniable facts, we are at risk for anxiety that leads to unmanageable stress. We cannot control ALL the variables in patient care. We often will respond with stubbornness, rigidity, and inability to delegate. These behaviors, in turn, may result in a devotion to, and identification with, work to the exclusion of self-care and relationships.
Burnout is characterized by overwhelming physical and emotional exhaustion. It may be accompanied by cynicism and detachment from the job. Many will have a sense of ineffectiveness and lack of accomplishment. These traits can be exacerbated by irritability and hyper-vigalence. In the end, we tend to over identify with our work to the exclusion of other activities and our families. Making the decision to TRANSITION to a new phase in your life/dental career may be the right choice for you.
We hope you can fight back and adapt. This can be accomplished by establishing a better work-life balance. Identifying there is a problem is KEY. Only then can you begin to take steps to survive. YES, SURVIVE! We are talking about life and potentially death here. If dentists try to stop controlling everything, they will find more joy in their lives. Taking care of ourselves and family first BEFORE we can successfully take care of our patients and staff. As a dentist we have the power to change the direction of our career, but we must want to first. Our state of well-being affects our patient’s outcomes. Our personalities contribute greatly to our success. By creating healthy boundaries between or work and home environment, we can have the best weapon to fight dental burnout.
This can lead to reduced hours, changing practice locations, practice sale, reducing our scope of practice and or just taking more vacations. For many the time has passed to take these simple, logical steps. Fortunately, we have options. TRANSITION, a fine and honorable option is open to all dental professionals. As many as 10% of dentists never practice clinical dentistry after graduating from dental school. They still enjoy long satisfying careers using the training they received. Moving on to new career challenges can be exciting and rewarding. YOU may choose to remain in a field related to dentistry or not.
Start with making a list of what you want. Where do you want to live? Does it matter? Have you achieved your financial goals or do you need to maintain a minimum acceptable salary? Are you willing or even capable to be retrained in a new or related field? Make no mistake, this is as group decision and involve your family/spouse in the process. Don’t be under the misguided impression that it will be easy or quick. This transition in your life will take time, but will definitely be worth the effort. Take a look at this TED talk on staying stuck (burnout) or moving forward (transition) for inspiration.
All of us will be able to TRANSITION to a new life eventually. For those of you that are ill/sick or seriously injured it may take time. Look at our posting on the tens steps to survive disability as a start.TEN STEPS TO SURVIVE DISABILITY. You may end up just volunteering or consoling others, but you still have value and are relevant. Continue to contribute and live.
TRANSITION, move on to a new career or life. Review our website for new and interesting ideas on career transition. Career Options Consider teaching, consulting, retraining, or volunteering. Your opportunities are essentially endless. We will provide the links to the organizations that will get you started. Today is the first day of the rest of your life. No more accurate statement about BURNOUT has ever been made. Once you recognize the problem the time to act has come. “When you are going through hell. KEEP MOVING”. We are ready to support you each step of the way. Look to your dental friends, family, and spouse for inspiration, support and real help.
WE ARE DENTISTS HELPING OTHER DENTISTS, WE CARE.