Conquering the Stages of Change

Author Elisabeth Kubler-Ross described the five “Stages of Change” a person goes through when they are dealing with it on an individual level or in the workplace. She identified them as: shock and denial, anger, bargaining, depression and, finally, acceptance. After their office affiliated with Heartland Dental on January 2, 2012, the dental team at Crystal Lake Dental Associates in Crystal Lake, Illinois learned that these stages of change can lead to a very good thing.

Crystal Lake Dental Associates
"Take a breath, open your mind and see what you can accomplish. Change is good!"

Cindy Chapman
Office Manager at Crystal Lake Dental Associates in Crystal Lake, Illinois

The team at Crystal Lake Dental Associates was made aware of the decision to affiliate with Heartland Dental a few weeks before the affiliation was finalized. More than half the team of two hygienists, two dental assistants, a clinical coordinator, a business assistant and an office manager had been with Dr. Phillip Neal for several years; some more than 10. Shauna Neal, the Practice Administrator at the office, recalls, "Especially those that had been with us a long time were worried. They didn't understand what an affiliation meant for them." Cindy Chapman, the Office Manager who, at the time of affiliation had been with the office for three years, agrees, "We were all surprised. It happened very quickly."

With the help of the Heartland Dental affiliation team and especially Dr. Neal, the shock wore off and they quickly made it through all five Stages of Change. Chapman remembers, "We began to feel excited after we were given an explanation of what would happen from the team. It took a day or two after that to reach acceptance." Neal elaborated by stressing the importance of Dr. Neal's attitude throughout the affiliation, "Our success stems from a great doctor. If he had not been so open and positive, we would not have been able to get to where we are today."

And success they have had. Struggles they were experiencing pre-affiliation included the economy, problems scheduling and keeping a full schedule, maintaining a steady new patient flow and consistent hours for their team. These issues are now almost nonexistent. "It has been a total turnaround. We have received so much support and training. It has brought our office to a point where it is rare that we are not having new patients coming in and a full schedule. It has been a constant growth and keeps getting better and better," explained Chapman.

She credits a lot of their improvement to those helping around them. "The support we received from the field and Home Office on how to implement the systems I think was the biggest help. We have had a lot of great people help us."

Both the team's and office's growth continues. Chapman says, "We have watched the 'I can't do's' change into 'I'm doing' and we keep striving to make it better. It keeps building on itself which then gives you the excitement for the next thing you are tackling. Something you thought you couldn’t do a year ago, you're doing now."

Both Chapman and Shauna Neal have experienced personal growth since the affiliation as well. "I've been in management positions before, but in learning how to deal better with peers and patients and improving my communication skills, it helped me to grow personally," says Chapman. For Shauna Neal, the affiliation has taken her to places she never imagined. "I moved into the Practice Administrator role and am now also teaching classes to others in the Heartland Dental family. I look forward to the opportunities yet to come that would never have been available otherwise."

What started as a shock is now a blessing. After experiencing the change that comes with an office affiliation, Chapman has advice to any that are worried, "Take a breath, open your mind and see what you can accomplish. Change is good!"