Professional Courtesy: Who’s in Your Boat? by Dr. Thomas Giacobbi

Professional Courtesy: Who’s in Your Boat?

by Thomas Giacobbi, DDS, FAGD, editorial director

A few weeks ago, the movie adaptation of the bestselling book The Boys in the Boat arrived in theaters. Audience members are sure to appreciate the story of the 1936 University of Washington rowing team and their appearance at the Summer Olympics in Berlin. Reading the book or watching the movie, you certainly gain an appreciation for the keys to success in rowing—precision, synchronized movements, working together, harmony, efficiency … starting to sound familiar? The similarities to working in a dental practice go far beyond the chance that you might get splashed with some water along the way.

When I’m working at my best with my assistant, every move is anticipated and to a casual observer might appear as a carefully choreographed routine; I have had patients comment about how well we work together. When I enter a hygiene operatory to do an exam, the hygienist is prepared to introduce the patient, review concerns, share their findings and discuss pending treatment, and all of this happens within the context of a conversation with the patient. What does the patient come away with? Two professionals exchanging information in a seamless manner— each anticipating what the other might ask and making sure the patient is part of the conversation.

These exchanges don’t happen by accident or on the first day working together. In our practice, this level of efficiency is part of our culture. Contrary to some of the mainstream business advice, we do sweat the small stuff—we focus on the details and we don’t subscribe to the school of “just do it your own way.” Working as a team means we’re in sync like members of a rowing team, and the more coordinated our movements, the more efficient we become. This improved efficiency allows time to visit with patients, have conversations with fellow team members and enjoy our day. (On the other hand, when people forget their roles, skip steps or find themselves out of sync with their teammates, stress increases, patients experience disorder and mistakes happen.)

Becoming a better captain
If you’re looking for advice on how to best get everyone on your team rowing in the same direction, look no further than the Dentaltown message boards. 24/7/365, dental professionals from around the world are asking questions and sharing answers on a myriad of clinical and nonclinical topics. I know there are many places you can have dental conversations online, so I challenge you to share your next case or question on Dentaltown and whatever other platform you like to use, then compare the quality of feedback you receive in both places. I trust you’ll find the members on Dentaltown will steer your boat in the right direction!

The message board conversations that appear in the magazine each month are a tiny fraction of the activity that can be found in our community any day of the week. We share these edited threads each month because they are timely conversations among dental professionals serving the patients in your community every week. Some days you’ll find a clinical tip that will solve a current challenge, other times you might read about a way to improve systems in your office, and occasionally you’ll find that you aren’t alone when you start to feel the pain of burnout.

Log on to today and see the latest news from dental professionals around the world. If you have any questions about our website or you have a topic you would like to see covered in the magazine, send me an email at

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