What Happened to Suzie?


Team transition doesn’t have to be disruptive

All of us in the field of dentistry know the truth about our business. The secret is that we are in the business of relationship first and dentistry second. The science of dentistry often takes second place to the business of friendships we make with our patients, along with the comfort and security they feel when they are with us. This is truly their number one concern.

With this said, how do we deal with the loss of a team member that patients look forward to seeing at their visits? The team member may no longer be with you due to relocation, retiring, or perhaps resigning or being dismissed. Whatever the reason there will be patients that count on seeing a certain team member and in many cases, is a part of the practice only because of a particular employee that they count on seeing during their visits.

I’ve been asked quite often how this event should be handled, particularly with the patient that might rely heavily on having a certain team member there to hold their hand or comfort their fears. It’s not unusual for an employer/dentist to actually fight to maintain a specific team member knowing that there will likely be patients that will ask about them and even go so far as to not make an appointment upon hearing that they are no longer there.

And then there are the “details”. “Why are they no longer here?” “How could you let them go?” “Where are they now?” How do we address this and how might the doctor and team respond to such inquiries?

First, keep in mind that as much as we hate to admit it, everyone is replaceable and because someone is no longer the part of a particular business does not necessarily mean that patients will go elsewhere. What’s critically important during these times is to keep explanations brief and assure the concerned patient that the level of care will never be compromised, even though Suzie is no longer a part of the practice.

Whatever the reason for the dismissal there is one response that covers it all and is answered with complete accuracy and honesty: “It was just time for Suzie to move on, and we all wish her well.”

This response is appropriate for any number of reasons. Whether the person moved out of the area, found another position elsewhere, or that it was necessary to terminate her employment. Those that know me know that my mantra has always been “Less is more.” This is an excellent example of why and how this approach needs to be applied. There is no reason to have to go into detail as this short and sweet explanation makes it comfortable for any or all situations.

Some assurance from the team that everyone will continue to care for their patients, allay their fears, and stand by them with whatever it is they need to comfortably receive their dental care is highly recommended.

The team may all need to “rise to the occasion”, but you will all be amazed that if handled correctly, patients will continue to stay with the practice and shift gears if need be , connecting with another team member and developing new bonds.


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