L.D. Pankey, when talking about the assimilation of knowledge, would say, “First you get it in your hands, then your head, and finally in your heart”, meaning objective understanding and competence is only the FIRST step in becoming a complete dentist.
This of course, was a hard message to hear as a young clinician, because after rapidly proceeding through Dawson, purchasing three Denar articulators, and then on to The Pankey Institute, I was READY to practice as a “comprehensive dentist.”
But unfortunately, most of my patients and the citizens of my berg didn’t get the memo. Most looked at me suspiciously. Others left.
Fortunately, a few allowed me to perform (and “perform” is the perfect word for it) my “complete exam”, study models and 35mm slide photography. Then, I would spend hours waxing up cases, and preparing a thorough report containing all of my findings and recommendations. And finally a “case presentation” appointment would be scheduled where I would unveil the brilliance of my complete dentistry, about which they would surely be impressed, and have no alternative but to say “yes”!
From there, is was then easy to visualize a completely organized schedule with a projected level of income of my choice based upon how hard I wanted to work, and the number of hours I was willing to commit to being at the office!
It all sounded so perfectly logical, and it all fit quite well with my left brain leaning world view of dentistry.
But it did not work out that way for me very often. And since, I have spoken and consulted with literally hundreds of dentists who have experienced the same frustrations. Many ultimately gave up the effort to try and practice comprehensive dentistry. Others took their practice to near bankruptcy via their determination.
You see, most of us missed Dr. Pankey’s message the first pass through, or even after the next two or three passes through. We failed to recognize that the whole concept of complete care hinged on how THE PATIENT felt, what THEY wanted, and what the solution meant TO THEM.
It was only after this difficult realization that things began to improve for me and my practice. The work of Bob Barkley, Lynn Carlisle, Avrom King, Sandy Roth, Mary Osborne and many others, helped me to make some critical adjustments regarding how I communicated with my patients – and perhaps even more critically – when.
Patient-centered dentistry is just that – patient centered, not treatment centered. This means that we must first come to appreciate each person first without imposing our beliefs and expectations upon them. This is a process which involves feelings first….their’s and ours…before cognition…and before discussing solutions. We must first be able to grasp the contextual meaning of dentistry in each patient’s life…and by so doing better appreciate THEIR reality.
And when we become good at doing this, we can feel that our knowledge has reached our heart, and the hearts of our patients as well.
Paul A. Henny, DDS
Thought Experiments LLC, ©2017
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