Case Presentation & Communication
Treatment plans can be a challenge. One of the greatest challenges is presenting treatment in a way that provides a solution to the patient’s need, functionality, and communicates to their specific utility value. This is an opportunity for excellence. Your clinical skills may be extraordinary, but without case acceptance, you will never be able to utilize them.
Case presentation should be approached with the same mindset and strategy, as you would any worthy accomplishment. Mastery only comes from teachability, practice, and commitment to excellence.
Every good presentation, business or otherwise, relies on effective communication. Successful communication is a two-way dialogue that, if properly navigated, leads to an even greater skill: Understanding. The objective is to avoid misunderstandings through productive communication. Let’s take a look at some basic, yet critical skills, required to master communication.
Communication is far more than being able to express yourself effectively. One of the greatest, and often overlooked aspects of communication, is listening. Listening is required for adequate exchange of information. Hearing is the physical ability to perceive sound, while listening is the act of hearing with thoughtful attention and giving consideration to the other person. The only way to formulate a plan that sufficiently provides solutions to a specific deficit is to actively listen to what the deficiency is in the first place.
Empathy is more than simply feeling for the other person. It involves seeing things from the other person’s perspective. Putting ourselves in the other person’s position, helps us understand, without judgment, the circumstances influencing their decision. Understanding allows you the opportunity to provide solutions in your treatment while addressing your patient’s goals.
Awareness of patient body language will help you understand if they are comprehending the information you are sharing, or if they are fearful. Start with the eyes. Avoidance of eye contact may reveal indifference. Ask open-ended questions. This will keep patients from becoming disinterested, by engaging them in the conversation. Other body language to note: wringing of the hands or picking fingernails, clutching the arms of the chair, and fidgeting feet or foot tapping. These movements may reveal anxiety. Checking their watch may indicate they have checked out, and are ready to leave. Any communication beyond this point is probably falling upon disinterested or non-listening ears.
Awareness builds upon the three aforementioned traits: active listening, empathy, and body language. If you have successfully utilized these three skills, you will be aware of the reasons they are seeking treatment, your patient’s oral health goals, and the timeline in which they hope to complete treatment.
American psychologist, Daniel Goleman, states emotional intelligence is comprised of 5 key elements:
A scrutinizing and honest look at oneself can be a difficult and tough pill to swallow. But as you let go of the frustration of trying to be something you’re not, you’ll find it liberating to move forward in the areas you’re gifted in.
I can think of no skill more important than self-awareness. If you desire excellence, you must demand it of yourself. Take an honest assessment of your presentation skills. Not everyone is a great communicator. Perhaps you are one of these people. Skills can be learned, but if your assistant is naturally gifted in this area, why reinvent the wheel? Diagnose the problems. Create a treatment plan. Sit back and relax, while your assistant masterfully presents treatment. There is no shame in your dental game. You’ve created space in your leadership for elevating others and made room for what you do best; caring for your patients.
Mastering these traits and strengthening emotional intelligence, will improve not only your case presentation but elevate your leadership to excellence.
Stephanie Baker RDH BS
Stephanie Baker, RDH BS is a coach, consultant, speaker, writer, business owner (Volume 52), singer, and a Registered Dental Hygienist. She is affectionately known as The Singing Hygienist. Her clinical and support team experiences are the inspiration for her writing and the motivation for coaching clients to success. She is a regular contributor to various publications within dentistry and beyond. In addition to feeding the homeless, starting a non-profit, and being involved in her church and other community organizations, she sings professionally and enjoys several creative outlets. She resides in Florida where she enjoys the company of her husband, three children, and four beautiful grandchildren.