“I want to speak to the manager”
Lisa Bainham, Chairperson of the Association of Dental Administrators and Managers (ADAM), will be speaking at the upcoming British Dental Conference & Dentistry Show (BDCDS). As part of the programme at the Practice Management & Services Theatre, Lisa will share her extensive experience in training the team and enabling them to better manage conflict in the dental practice. She says:
“A negative comment or complaint from a patient can have a huge impact on professionals, who can worry about it for many days or weeks after the event, maybe lose precious sleep over it or even let it affect their confidence. It can be very disheartening for the entire team. Understanding how to handle complaints is important from a regulatory perspective, but we must also consider it from a personal point of view. Individuals need to be armed with knowledge and prepared for such situations so they can handle them effectively and reduce the wider impact on them and the practice.”
Lisa has spent the past year travelling around the UK and visiting dental teams who wished to enhance and strengthen their response to patient conflict. She shares the key issues that teams have been seeking help with:
“In an ideal world, we would be talking about avoiding complaints altogether. Although there are certainly ways to reduce the risk, it is unrealistic for a practice to expect absolutely no conflict with a patient. 2022 was a record-breaker for the number of practices seeking support in this area. No one is immune – even those with the very best intentions can find themselves in difficult situations with a patient.
“I get a lot of questions about helping teams to become more resilient and not absorb all the stress of grievances that come up from patients. One of the most common patient enquiries that teams want to address right now is ‘Are you taking NHS patients?’ This is a loaded question and can easily lead to conflict if not handled correctly.
“This is a difficult situation for all involved. A significant proportion of the population can’t access NHS dental care right now. Every single practice is receiving 30-40 enquiries from potential new NHS patients daily and none of us are able to treat them in this capacity. However, how we present this information and the words we choose can dramatically change this interaction. We can make ourselves victims if we apologise, or seem insensitive if we say we can only take private patients. I believe it is important to be honest with the people enquiring and to talk about all their options instead of simply giving short answers.
“This is what I cover during team training when it comes to managing NHS enquiries. We have to be empathetic and we might be sorry about the situation, but we can still provide the care that they need, they just need to know how. It’s our responsibility to share the truth of what’s going on and what’s available – we are a healthcare provider first and foremost.”
At BDCDS 2023, Lisa will discuss these topics and share some of the other scenarios that many practices have been struggling with. She will also provide some practical advice to help guide the dental team towards a more effective conflict response.
“I do this all the time and will be talking about real-life complaints that teams see in practice every day. I’ve received great feedback from teams I have trained and I want to help more people to understand that confidence simply comes from following a process. I will explore how we can utilise emotional intelligence to manage the situation better, as well as what trigger words to avoid. I will also look at things from the patient's perspective and further consider how the dental team could prevent the escalation of conflict.
“I essentially hope to give delegates a blueprint of how to have those conversations and ensure that patients perceive the team’s words in the right way. I will keep it relatable and practical, so colleagues can take ideas straight back to practice.”
Lisa will be presenting her session – entitled “I want to speak to the manager” – on both days of the show, enabling as many people as possible to get involved. Having attended BDCDS in the past, she comments on her experience of the event:
“I really like BDCDS. I’ve noticed in the last couple of years that people are once again bringing their whole teams, which is fantastic. There’s something for everybody and they can come to listen to the individual theatres that are relevant to them. BDCDS provides a great free training day and team-building event for all.
“In addition to my sessions, ADAM have a stand among the exhibition, where delegates can seek more information on what the association does. Come along to find out more and get involved with your professional body.”