Renew Your Vows, To Your Patients
Performing your wedding vows usually involve giving a solemn two-word response to a very important, life-altering question. The precise wording can vary, but the essential meaning is the same: Do you take this person, for better or for worse, in good times and bad …
Assuming it’s not 3 a.m. in Las Vegas and the person officiating is not dressed as Elvis, you’ll have given the question careful consideration long before you reached the altar. You’ve thought through the implications of what it means. And if you’re serious about making the commitment the answer has to be “I do.”
I think most dentists begin their careers feeling that way about their patients, too. You enter the profession excited about what you can do for the people who come to you and you’re committed to giving them the best care you can provide, no matter what. You start out in love with your patients.
Then it turns out that some patients are simply easier to love than others. The patients who keep all their appointments, accept all your recommendations, value dentistry and your expertise are the ones who make you feel good about the relationship. Your commitment to them comes naturally.
But of course you made a commitment to all your patients. This includes the ones who are more challenging to deal with, neglect their oral health and turn down necessary treatment only to show up six months later in worse shape. It can be tempting to write them off, but true love—whether it’s for your spouse, profession, or your patients—must be unconditional. The true test of your commitment is how devoted you are to the relationship even when things are not going as you would like.
This is worth remembering when you find yourself becoming frustrated or disillusioned with certain patients. Sure, there will always be a few people you just will never be able to reach and who are truly beyond your capacity to love. The best you can hope for is that there is someone else out there to love them. But when it comes to the vast majority of your patients, you’re in it for the long haul and you’re in it with the purest of intentions.
So rather than write off those difficult ones as lost causes, make a conscious effort to “renew your vows” and give them the full measure of your expertise and attention, every time. They may not seem to appreciate it today, but they might yet come around some day. In the meantime, you can honestly say you have acted with the highest integrity and been true to your professional vows.