Perspectives on Wellness is a series dedicated to wellness in the dental community. This article focuses on Dr. Diana Liu, an associate dentist and certified yoga instructor.
Emerging from the age of stoicism
Most dentists feel pressure to exude a sense of calm and confidence at all times. It’s no wonder. Anxious patients and impressionable staff all feel better when it’s clear that you have all the answers, all the time.
But for Dr. Robert Wolanski, chair of the wellness committee of the British Columbia Dental Association, and many of today’s practitioners, this expectation has outlived its usefulness. “Dentists are expected to be stoic, always on and wear a mask of resilience to ensure patients feel at ease,” he says. “And that can take its toll without having some simple, daily coping strategies.”
Many new dentists, including Dr. Diana Liu, an associate at a busy practice in Sechelt, B.C., also see the irony of internalizing stress in an attempt to reduce it. Her approach to balancing the pressure of work and life takes a different tack and it's paying off.
The road to wellness
Dr. Diana Liu always had the drive and motivation to excel in any career. Before becoming a dentist, she completed an undergraduate degree in biochemistry, followed that up with an MBA, and became an analyst in the high-stress world of finance. What she didn’t have was an effective way of dealing with stress.
Even before she decided to make a career shift and enroll in dental school, it was clear she needed to learn some new skills for coping with pressure. She needed a treatment plan for herself and her career. That’s when she followed in her mother’s footsteps and discovered the benefits of yoga. She began to exercise regularly, eat better, and train her mind and body to work together.
By the time she decided to go back to school to begin her dental training, she already had a lot of skills to help manage the workload. The more she worked on managing stress, the easier it became to handle the pressure of dental school. Her anxiety level dropped and it was easier to focus on the workload and the physical demands of studying, doing labs, and caring for patients.
Fast forward >>
Dr. Diana Liu is an associate dentist and a certified yoga instructor. She also hosts wellness retreats for high-performance individuals. So it’s no wonder she is embracing a new attitude toward stress in the dental community, where she says, “There’s simply too much burnout and something needs to be done.”
Dr. Liu knows she’s very lucky to have found a practice full of people who share her appreciation for mindfulness and wellness. The ideas that she brings to the table are met with appreciation and encouragement because the staff of about 20 all agree that building a compassionate space where patients feel safe and relaxed is the future of dentistry.
Dr. Diana Liu’s dental-practice wellness tips
Here are a few of the simple ways Dr. Liu and her teammates are de-stressing their workplace so that so that everyone feels calmer, healthier and more able to offer outstanding patient care.
- Schedule wellness breaks in the day so everyone can go for a walk, stretch or just take a break when needed. “We all cross-train on most of the office tasks that need to be done so we have no problem covering someone’s station if they just need to take a break,” Dr. Liu says.
- Dr. Liu discovered that taking a water break in the middle of a procedure was a good way for her to reset mentally and physically. She quickly discovered that patients also like the idea of a break but often won’t ask for it. “It becomes a win-win de-stressor for all of us,” she says.
- “I discovered yoga at the perfect time,” says Liu, who is now a certified instructor. “I need something that would help me manage stress and strengthen my mind and body for the work I do.” She encourages everyone at the practice to give it a try.
Keep it fresh
- Forget an apple a day. Liu makes sure the kitchen is teeming with all kinds of fresh, organic fruit to help people refuel with the right kind of energy for the job.
Practice compassionate coaching
- Compassionate coaching is a technique that encourages co-workers to communicate with each other thoughtfully and be solutions-oriented.
Getting started on your wellness plan
Every dental practice reflects the values of owners, associates, staff and the community it serves. It takes time to find the right formula of attitudes and habits that will give everyone the greatest opportunity to perform at their full potential.
Like the dental associations that represent the interests of Canadian dentists and comprise our membership, CDSPI is here to help. CDSPI offers a wide variety of resources, not just financial, for all members of Canada’s dental community, including dentals students, dentists, their staff and immediate families. Through the Members’ Assistance Program (MAP) provided by Telus Health (formerly LifeWorks), you can tap into a free and confidential support service to help you deal with life’s challenges — big or small.
To find out more about MAP or to speak with someone for more information, call the confidential MAP number at 1.844.578.4040.
MAP is sponsored by CDSPI and provided by LifeWorks, the largest Canadian-based Employee and Family Assistance provider in the country.