I value professionalism. When I go to a place of service, I expect certain things. This concept of “professionalism” is something I try to teach my students, mostly through writing and language and choice, because it goes miles in the world of grown-ups. Lately, I’ve wondered if I am just overly picky with my professional expectations. I will let you decide.

Being both extremely busy and new to the area, I didn’t take a lot of time to shop around, but rather started going to the most convenient dentist (Dentist A). As expected, I needed substantial work on my teeth since it had been years since the last visit. Armed with insurance, I began the process of getting fillings to some of those lower back teeth. I understood that a few fillings were necessary, but it seemed like they were always telling me I needed more. The work was never-ending, the insurance was waning, and my intuition was doubting. As a matter of course, I tried to discreetly call and ask for my x-rays to be sent to another office for a second opinion. Within two days, I received a card from Dentist A that said, “We are sorry to lose you as a patient. Please let us know if you need anything in the future.”

Exhibit A: Making quick assumptions and putting a patient on the spot is unprofessional.

I went to Dentist B and received advice that made me feel more comfortable. Dentist A was not doing anything wrong, but the consensus is that his approach is more proactive than preventative. Of course, I feel better finding a dentist that focuses on that later quality. The problem: I had to go back to Dentist A to receive the finishing touches on a crown. I went back today and got the ROYAL treatment.

Exhibit B: A customer should ALWAYS receive the royal treatment; inconsistency shows ulterior motives, which is not professional.

OK, back to this royal treatment. The whole office staff knew my name, and even some of the techs stopped what they were doing to wave at me as I strolled back to my respective cubicle. One word: strange. Next, I set in my chair and leaned back, Then, the dental assistant said, “We’re so sad to see you leave.” At this, I said, “I think there’s been a misunderstanding. I just wanted to get a second opinion.” I explained the story, and she felt awful and explained that she understood the need to get a second opinion. This sounds pretty reasonable, but the following lines blew me away: “but you know we would love for you to stay because you’re a good girl” OK, for all they know I could be a street-walker. I guess being a good girl means I pay my bills. Am I being a bit too cynical at this point?

Exhibit C: It is unprofessional to put the customer in an awkward situation and make personal comments about that customer’s character.

Next, an intern came in our cubicle to watch the procedure. The girl looked like a teenager, and seemed somewhat shy, but very nice. After she left, the assistant made a comment about her shyness, saying that she would have to learn “how to get into it.”

Exhibit D: Talking about a coworker in front of your patient is unprofessional. What did she say about me when she left? “My! That girl’s hair needs some serious help!”

Last, the dentist comes in, looks at my tooth, and makes the comment, “We’re going to make sure this tooth looks real good before sending you to ‘Dentist B’ because this tooth has my name on it.” Wow. Did he really say that? This statement implies so much. First, he assumed that I had left his practice (a communication breakdown), and secondly, he also said that because another dentist would soon be looking at his work, he needed to do a good job. Did I hear this correctly, or was I just reading into this comment? Shouldn’t we ALWAYS do a good job?

Exhibit E: Implying that you will do a good job for the sake of showmanship is unprofessional. Isn’t it just the right thing to do?

In closing, the main aspect of professionalism that I greatly appreciate is balance. I know this is a hard bill to fit, but I am a pleased customer when someone can find a way to be personal and sincere while also keeping work at a professional level. This same principle applies in almost all areas of work. Then again, I might be too picky, but I like to think that there are still some true professionals out there.



  1. I am laughing at your posting – because it rings so true! I agree with your statement “I am a pleased customer when someone can find a way to be personal and sincere while also keeping work at a professional level.” Especially sincere and professional!

  2. Meredith · · Reply

    SO, in January I went to my yearly appointment. Signed in for my appointment on time and nothing was said to me. Probably a little rude, but not uncommon for this place. 2 HOURS later I still sat in the waiting room. No explanation, nothing. Finally they called me back as if nothing were wrong, took blood pressure, etc, and then sat me down on a bench and told me to wait just a few minutes until they would take me to my room. About 45 minutes later after watching nurses & doctors chat it up in the hall with no regards to me & again no explanation, they finally took me to a room. I put on the robe & sat freezing for another 30 minutes. At this point I called Heather who told me I should have left 2 hours ago and I finally got up enough courage to leave. I told the nurse in the hall who said “the doctor is on her way, she’s just right in the other room! You’re next”. However I had to explain to her that the colossal failure was that I had been waiting 3 hours already. I didn’t care where the doctor was. The point was that I had been waiting 3 HOURS!! Anyway, I walked up to the front to tell the receptionist and the nurse happened to walk by and tried to convince me to stay again. She lowered her voice like she was telling me a secret and said that a woman had lost her baby that morning and they had been backed up all day. I said I understood – which I do – but call me crazy, but shouldn’t someone tell me that right when I come in, give me the option of staying for 3 hours or rescheduling instead of assuming that I both have the time and don’t mind waiting for 3 hours??? If you ask me the doctor was not willing to tell her patients about the wait because she didn’t want the complication that took all her time in the morning to have to “cost” her. I changed doctors. 🙂 So, I understand your concerns. Don’t we have these problems all the time?? 🙂

  3. *busily taking notes for future practice*

  4. Meredith · · Reply

    Ha, ha – yes, Josh, take notes!!

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