Oral health professionals work hard every day to deliver high-quality dental care to their patients. While the job can be incredibly rewarding, dental professionals are also at elevated risk of musculoskeletal (MSK) disorders, due to awkward working postures, repetitive work, and prolonged standing. This can result in damage that can lead to pain, fatigue, and other disorders. MSK can be so severe that it has become the leading cause of early retirement among some dentists.
Sarah Jockin, DDS, a supported doctor at Lake Park Dental, and the Director of Wellness at Heartland Dental, shared her personal experiences with MSK and shed light on how Heartland has taken proactive steps to address this issue by offering a range of wellness benefits and support to their supported doctors and team members.
What is included in the wellness platform?
There are many dimensions to wellness and at Heartland Dental, we focus on supporting our team along three categories: Physical, Mental and Financial Wellness. We find that team members that thrive in all of these three dimensions report a high quality of life. However, if any of these three categories fall short, it creates stress for the individual.
- Physical: Health is key to overall wellbeing. That’s why our supported practices offer insurance, discounted gym memberships with unlimited health coaching included, medical plans with free virtual visits and virtual MSK therapy, and more.
- Mental: Everyone goes through tough times. We have programs to get people support when they need it most or just take a break to prevent burnout. For example, paid time off, an Employee Assistance Plan to support people in crisis, short-term mental health therapy, free wellness self-assessments, and information on family matters, such as child and elder care.
- Financial: Life can be unpredictable. We want to help people navigate changes and plan for the future. There are retirement planning services, college savings plans, a wide variety of discounts through the Heartland Dental Savings Marketplace, life insurance, disability, and even household budgeting support.
What sparked your interest in wellness?
The risk of burnout for a dentist is high. I became involved in wellness due to my own personal experience of physical pain and emotional burnout. There is a lot of stress in our role. We are constantly multi-tasking – thinking about what is happening in multiple rooms with many patients throughout the day (fillings, root canals, hygiene, and more). There’s also the emotional side of patient care, as we empathize and support our patients who are in pain and scared. In addition to these priorities, we are leading a team! All of these components are why I approached Heartland about creating a wellness platform.
As director of wellness, I hope to create awareness and offer help to implement appropriate interventions before others find themselves in a similar situation. Heartland Dental is an industry trailblazer in the wellness space, and I’m thrilled to help implement a comprehensive wellness culture among fellow supported doctors and teams.
What is your experience with MSK and how is Heartland Dental addressing it with supported doctors and team members?
I personally experienced intense physical pain and considered leaving the profession. I found when looking for help most programs treated the symptom but not the cause. The virtual MSK program, available free to everyone enrolled in a Heartland Dental-sponsored health insurance plan, goes beyond rehab therapy. It trains the brain to put the muscles back online, and it works. After just three months, I felt 80-85% better. Heartland Dental also offers several premium benefits to address MSK, including ergonomic tips, chairside stretches, and virtual physical therapy.
What are a few goals you hope to achieve as the company’s director of wellness?
The goal of Heartland Dental’s wellness program is to help supported doctors and team members assess their wellness and provide tools to help them improve their overall health. My goals are to improve the quality of life for providers, their families, and patients. For example, we implemented a “Well-Being Index” with the Mayo Clinic, which focuses on dentistry and allows dental professionals to anonymously measure their well-being and access custom resources.
Do you have any tips you can share on how doctors can pursue their own individual wellness and help their team members?
Creating a culture of open communication and prioritizing health and wellness, even with simple daily habits, is crucial. Leaders should lead by example, and keeping a daily log of self-care activities can be immensely helpful. Writing things down helps celebrate wellness achievements and keeps everyone accountable.
If you're a dental professional looking for a supportive environment that values your physical, mental, and emotional health, Heartland Dental is the place to be. Visit here to learn more.