What? Systems Can Be Fun?

September 15, 2021 Sheri Kay RDH

How about a fun pre-pandemic memory? I was on a vacation cruise and had sought out a lounge to do my yoga privately early in the mornings. One morning, I arrived to find easels displaying paintings along the walls of the lounge and a team of people from the Art Gallery. One woman held up a camera and said, “Okay, go!” Then, four others ran along the sides of the room, picking up the paintings and rushing them up to the front of the room. Then they ran back, folded the easels, and moved them as well. The woman with the camera said, “You did it,” and everyone cheered and clapped.

Later that day, I ran into the woman who had held the camera. I had to ask… you know I did, “What were you doing in the lounge this morning?” She told me that every few months they do a quality control exercise to demonstrate they can breakdown the gallery in less than five minutes, because sometimes they only have five minutes to clear the lounge between events.

I had to ask… You know I did. “So, how well did you do?” She told me they were excited to do it this time in just over a minute. She was beaming from ear to ear.

So, that got me thinking…. You know it did. Turning a task into something fun can be energizing. In dentistry, we have to breakdown operatories and setup operatories all the time. What if, while following infection control guidelines and all things OSHA, there was still an element of fun in periodically demonstrating we can do this task at high speed? What record can we beat?

While I was on this same cruise in the Caribbean, it was flu season. There were bottles of hand sanitizer everywhere, and going into the dining room, there were four stations where you could stick your hand under an automatic dispenser. The cruise line did not want to leave it up to the honor system for passengers to clean their hands, so they had come up with a fun way to make us do it. Two men with Caribbean accents and funny attire greeted everyone coming into the room. They had Bluetooth speakers and danced as they said to everyone, “Washy, washy, yay, thank you.” So, every time I went into the dining room, I had a little dance with these gentlemen and sanitized my hands. For the entire cruise, everyone sanitized their hands upon entering the dining room!

During the final night’s dinner celebration… you know the one, where they bring in the blazing dessert and dance in a Conga line to “Hot, Hot, Hot,” the “Washy, washy” guys got on the microphone and thanked us for sanitizing our hands–and allowing them to help keep us healthy. Of course, we all cheered. We loved these guys!

So, that got me thinking… you know it did! They had found a fun and engaging way to improve our health and make us feel good about following the rules. I hope you noted that in my two cruise ship stories, having fun with systems increased the group’s performance. Research consistently demonstrates that when team members are enjoying themselves, work is performed at a higher caliber and with less stress. When patients are enjoying themselves, their participation in their own health is greatly improved.

I know dental care teams well, and they love a creative challenge. Where do you have systems that are trending boring that your care team might add a little fun and spice to? Have some great examples to share? Add them in the blog comments.

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About Author

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Sheri Kay RDH

Sheri Kay started her career in dentistry as a dental assistant for an “under one roof” practice in 1980. The years quickly flew by as Sheri worked her way from one position to the next learning everything possible about the different opportunities and roles available in an office. As much as she loved dentistry … something was always missing. In 1994, after Sheri graduated from hygiene school, her entire world changed when she was introduced to the Pankey Philosophy of Care. What came next for Sheri was an intense desire to help other dental professionals learn how they could positively influence the health and profitability of their own practices. By 2012, Sheri was working full time as a Dental Practice Coach and has since worked with over 300 practices across the country. Owning SKY Dental Practice Dental Coaching is more of a lifestyle than a job, as Sheri thrives on the strong relationships that she develops with her clients. She enjoys speaking at state meetings, facilitating with Study Clubs and of course, coaching with her practices.

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