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Why stress is a big deal: Recognising burnout in Dentistry and ways to beat it

We’ve all felt stress at some time or another. Whether personal or professional, worries and stress don’t just go away by not thinking about it. By not acknowledging stress, niggling worries can lead to severe burnout which by the time it’s noticed, it’s normally too late.

In 2018/19, 602,000 workers in the UK suffered from work-related stress, anxiety and depression. This accounted for more than half of all sick days taken during that time period. Given that this data was collected before the pandemic, it’s inevitable that the rate will probably be much higher following the pressures caused by COVID-19.

Toxic environment

Dental practices have felt the pressures of the pandemic and continue to do so as restrictions are lifted. Backed up waiting lists and limited staff numbers mean there is a demand to get through as many as 40 patients a day. Frustrated patients can create a whole host of problems for receptionists who have to manage the numbers whilst also maintaining composure and providing reassurance. It’s easy to see how the workplace can quickly become toxic as staff are expected to keep going.

Management

So how does one avoid this given the current situation the world finds itself in? Every practice is different but having good management is key. A happy team is a productive one and having good policies and procedures in place to protect staff is a must.

Many dental staff have claimed that feeling unsupported in the practice is one of their main worries. Whether that’s not having the right staff by your side, being left unsupervised or being expected to cut corners that could risk patient safety. Kindness and patience also go a long way in these troubling times. Being understanding when colleagues need help and not getting angry is also another important quality to have. Stress can lead people to snap or get angry but it’s incredibly important to remember that getting upset with someone does not make them work harder or faster. Burnout is very real and creates an unpleasant environment. It’s no surprise then that people are leaving the profession to find a better workplace environment elsewhere.

Self-reflection

So what else can be done to prevent burnout and manage stress? Something we can all do is try and recognise signs of stress in ourselves before it’s too late. Once you recognise an issue, you can do something about it. Talk to your manager, discuss your tasks and planyour day so that you have a chance to take regular breaks. Don’t be afraid to broach the subject with your colleagues, they’d much rather you did everything you can now to feel better than waiting until you’re completely burnt out and needing to take weeks off to recover.

Everyone at the practice has a responsibility to make the workplace a better place to be. Recognising that everyone is human and will work their best if they feel healthy and happy can result in an effective practice that nurtures its staff and increases the retention rate.

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