Dr Martin Foster, Dentolegal Consultant, considers why dentists experience stress and how it can be overcome
Stress can impact on a dentist’s health and practice in a number of ways. It can affect confidence, clinical judgement, morale and even lead to performance issues.
Reasons for stress
Dentists face significant pressures within the profession from a variety of sources. Rising patient expectations, heavy workloads, complex treatment options, negative media coverage and an increased fear of litigation and formal investigation all contribute to stress and anxiety within the profession. The work is intensive, and for many the responsibilities of providing healthcare are added to by running a business or managing staff. Poor management and difficult professional relationships can also contribute to feelings of stress. These aspects of dentistry can have a detrimental impact on clinicians, leading to burn-out and potentially placing professional standards and patient safety at risk.
Dealing with the problem
Stress is a threat to our quality of life and to physical and psychological well-being. You should seek help if you become aware that you are suffering from a stress related condition. You should also act responsibly if you suspect that a colleague needs help or support. As employers, dentists have a duty to ensure that staff are not put under undue pressure as part of their normal duties.
A successful practice (or dental department) is one where effective stress management strategies are firmly in place. This contributes to the atmosphere of well-being and competence within the practice. Its positive effect emanates throughout – staff and team members feel valued and motivated and patients feel more relaxed and welcome. We need to have systems in place to ensure that staff are coping with their duties and workload, for example a practice appraisal system.
Top tips to alleviate stress
Review stress factors
Consider the factors that can lead to stress or anxiety. This review process will help you to develop a better understanding of what stress ’looks like’ and what action can be taken to control it.
Attend Risk Management events
Reduce the risk of stress through receiving a complaint by attending one of our workshops aimed at how to deal with challenging interactions, better manage your risks, improve your communication and focus on delivering improved patient care.
Accessing a confidential and independent service is often the best way of identifying and dealing with the issues that are at the core of stress and anxiety problems. Dental Protection can provide access to such a service to members who require assistance.
Look after yourself
Work-life balance is really important. Spending time with family and friends, taking up a hobby or going on holiday will help you to maintain a clear focus and positive outlook. It goes without saying that regular exercise, eating well and keeping hydrated will also help in keeping you healthy and counter the stresses of the surgery.