Dealing with limbo

01 January 2018

As I write I am slightly perturbed about two things. First, that I have had to write 2018 at the top of the page to save it correctly in alignment with when this will go to print, and second, that I am sitting in a house full of boxes.

At this time last year I wrote about approaching the New Year and reflecting on what was ahead. This year has not been what I expected, but then is any year ever what we expect? Life takes its course and we just have to go with it.

So 2018 will be as it is and meanwhile I sit with boxes. They were packed on the day when the house exchange was supposed to happen in anticipation of completion two days later. But exchange has not happened, so I am living in limbo.  It’s a really interesting place to be. I was asked to leave out what I might need, but I was in London on a dento-legal study day whilst it was happening and only expected to leave out two days of ‘stuff’. I am now faced with at least 13 days, if everything goes to plan!

There’s actually something of a challenge about the whole experience, and I love a challenge. I see this so often in practices that are facing challenging times, it always reveals those teams that work well together. When things get tough, especially unexpectedly, teams will clearly show how they work together. If there are already divisions in a team, they will be seen as soon as you face a major challenge.

In my role, I often see practices at these junctures. Some are choice challenges, like expansion of the practice or changing from one provision of payment to another. These changes, even if right for the practice, can go horribly wrong if the whole team doesn’t understand why the direction is being changed. Good communication is key; why has the decision been made, what are the obstacles, how will the level of patient care and service be maintained during the changes? These are often aspects that get brushed over by the dentist, as their focus will be longer term, often how to fund the change will be their biggest concern, needing the team to focus on the everyday.

I also see many situations where the challenge is forced such as ill health or death of a key member of the practice. Environmental issues such as flooding or unexpected damage to the practice building also cause major challenges. In my experience at these times practices are amazing on focusing at patient care. These times are the limbo times, facing the fact that you are where you are and that you have to be resourceful, think outside the box (or in my case boxes) and carry on.

I also always find it heartening how other practices in the area will offer help at these times, whether it is use of a surgery, another practice covering emergencies or even a dentist offering to do sessions in the practice to help out. It shows the best of our profession and reminds us that if we need help we should ask. It shouldn’t take a crisis for us to ask for help but it often does. With some of the issues I see, if help had been asked for earlier, the situation may never have arisen, and that is sad. And being forced to think outside the box can sometimes be a good thing, it’s not a comfortable place to be to start with, but strangely seems to get easier, and definitely so if you do ask for help.

It doesn’t have to be big things that can be the major challenges at this point. My standard food before a long swim is a boiled egg and toast. First issue, no pans to boil said egg. You wouldn’t believe how long it took me to realise I had a microwave and could do scrambled egg in the one bowl left remaining. I even then managed to be brave and rummage in a box to find the marmite!

That little challenge made me realise I could probably work around most of the things I needed to. Whereas normally the fact that my daughter is roughly the same size as me is a negative, as clothes usually disappear to university, on thinking outside of the box I realised there was the potential to borrow things in the opposite direction and ask for help, turning a negative into a positive!

Maybe 2018 will be my year to think outside the box, wear my daughter’s clothes and eat my eggs differently before a swim!