As a dental student, you already know that becoming a dentist means making critical decisions. With diagnosis and treatment planning, there are many options that are presented for any given patient who finds him or herself in your chair. Being indecisive is no place for a dentist, and both your patients and your future practice team lies their trust in you. The more training and continued education that you receive while in school, the more your confidence grows as the right decisions are made during a young career.
The ability to identify problems and implement solutions is a dentist’s bread and butter. Problem solving can go beyond your patients and find its way into managing your team, running your small business, or any other billing or marketing issues that may arise when you find yourself as a practice owner. In any event, one can use the following breakdown to combat these common challenges.
Identify the Underlying Problem
You can’t solve a problem without first defining the underlying cause. Ask yourself, is this problem a consequence of a larger issue? Focusing on the root cause will make it easier to determine solutions, rather than patching up inconsequential difficulties or other minor inconsistencies. It might take some time, but if you see the complete picture you can more accurately determine a solution from it. Whether it’s inner-office politics or a hiccup in a report, searching for that overarching problem should be your first step.
Have Many Solutions
Once you have identified the problem, don’t rush into the first solution that pops into your head. If you act too soon, you might not be considering the best possible answer. Instead, find alternative solutions—this may open more doors for compromises, and leave everyone involved with a “win-win”. When you have options, you might be able to see which solutions have the least amount of repercussions, and decide from there. Of course, if a problem doesn’t allow for these alternatives, then your first reaction has to be used.
Don’t keep the problem to yourself, or push your preferred solution. Hear out how team members might approach, and discuss how your options will play out in the long-term. Not only will it generate more options for tackling the problem, but talking it over with your staff will help build team trust and leadership. Your staff will certainly appreciate it. Once that’s in place, begin to see how each option will look in full motion, and implement the one that has the greatest gain with the lowest risk.
Implement and Evaluation
When in the implementation process, assess what responsibilities and outcomes will be expected. Does your staff need to know? What are some adjustments that need to be made when the solution is reached? What can you change to prevent this problem from recurring? You’ll find that many “soft skills” will be implemented here as well, and reevaluation should be your last step. How well is your solution working? Does a new plan need to be implemented? Is the problem ultimately solved? If things are not working out, take a step back for reevaluation. Luckily, if you’ve followed these recommendations, you’ll have many options in place, and consider alternatives to finally solve that problem.
Dental students are expected to problem solve almost every day. But have you had the time to think about whether or not your problem-solving skills are effective? Becoming a part of the healthcare profession means being a leader in your chosen field. With maturity, accountability, and a little bit of courage, dental students can find themselves reaching their fullest potential as new leaders. There’s no better time to acquire these problem-solving tools once you prepare to enter a new semester. Start your leadership skills off right!