Monday, August 10, 2009

Banker's Hours

I have to air a pet peeve of mine.

I am really ticked off at all the dentists, doctors, etc. who expect us to pull our kids from school in order to schedule routine appointments. What kind of message does this send to our kids?

I took my kids to the dentist this week for a cleaning. Afterwards, they wanted me to schedule the next appointment, in six months. Fine, we do this all the time.

In the past this was easy because we had a different school schedule that gave us periodic time off during the school week, so we always scheduled it for those days so as not to miss any lesson time. However, the school's schedule has now changed. We now have early release on some Fridays, but of course the dentist doesn't work then. Heaven forbid he actually work a normal work week like everyone else in the world.

So fine, I ask about apppointments after school. Oh no, the dentist doesn't stay late. Heaven forfend he might be inconvenienced at all.

No, no, instead, he basically expects kids to MISS SCHOOL in order to get a routine dental cleaning.

Never mind that he just hired another dentist to lighten his load. He could have her work some later hours......but no. That's far too much to ask.

No, instead, they have to send the message that school is unimportant, that everything else in the world takes priority over learning, that his precious time is far more important than mere education.

Well, I find that totally unacceptable. School is very important, and it's very difficult to make up missed classroom time. Sure, you can get any assignments missed, but any teacher will tell you that it's JUST NOT THE SAME.

You just don't "get" it the same way if you don't hear the teacher's lecture or get to ask interactive questions right then and there. If there's a science lab or a special hands-on learning activity, that kind of stuff simply can't be made up. And frequent absences makes the teacher and the kid's jobs SO much harder.

Now, some absences are just going to happen. It's a rare kid that doesn't ever miss school. And dental emergencies happen, or sometimes there are other circumstances that dictate having a dental appointment during school time. Sometimes it just can't be helped.

But these absences should be kept to a MINIMUM and they shouldn't be for some routine thing like a cleaning, for heaven's sake.

It makes me just furious that basically, I have almost no choice but to have the kids miss school in order to get their dental cleanings. To minimize this, I always schedule one for the summertime, but you simply can't expect everyone to have winter and summer cleanings. Some are going to have to be in the spring and fall. Why can't there be some appointments available outside of school hours?

And what about parents who work outside the home? I do, but I work part-time and my schedule is fairly flexible. I can make dental appointments and doctor appointments work if I must....but what about those parents who can't?

Some parents simply cannot take time off for things like dental cleanings. With this dentist's practice, they'd be out of luck. They'd have to take personal or vacation time in order to get regular dental cleanings for their kids.....or their kids would have to go without. In fact, I'd bet that's one of the barriers for getting regular cleanings and dental care for many kids.

In the end, I made an appointment for the last time slot of the dentist's day, one where we won't have to miss school if we RUSH off right at the end of school......but I will have to do this multiple times in order to get all my kids in. It's not a short drive, so this is no minor inconvenience. I could make only one trip if I was simply willing to ditch school and schedule earlier in the day....but what does that teach my kids?

I think good dental care is important....but I don't think I should have to sacrifice my kids' learning for it.

You would think in particular that a pediatric practice would have at least some extra hours appointments available.....but no.

I communicated my displeasure pretty clearly to the receptionist and asked her to pass it on to the dentist in the strongest possible words.

I have to say, though, much as I like this practice otherwise, I may just have to find another dentist over this that offers enough appointment times that missing school is not our only real option.

Hopefully there are still some dentists out there that don't keep banker's hours and expect their own convenience to supercede everyone else's learning and school and work commitments. I sure hope that there is, because child #3 is going to be needing braces within a year or so. I simply could not countenance taking him out of school that often.

What do you do for dental appointments for your school-aged kids, assuming they are not home-schooled?


Anonymous said...

Our dentist opens at 7am, so we go before school. It's hard to get going that early in order to get there on time those days, but I prefer that to my kids missing school. If they didn't have either before school or after school hours, I would probably change dentists.

JoGeek said...

I don't have kids, but I also work bankers hours and have to arrange for someone to cover my position if I have to leave before 5pm. I've found that at least three dentists have evening and Saturday hours in my town, with more jumping on the bandwagon all the time. Voice your displeasure with your dollar; find another dentist and let your's know why you're leaving. Eventually if enough clients do so he'll see the economic light and change his working hours.

Rebekah Costello said...

I know this isn't a popular option among many but...I make them brush their teeth. My oldest is going to start school this year, though. My parents handled it the same way. They figured my teeth were not going to rot and fall out of my head if I missed a routine cleaning and shockingly, the dentist wasn't going to go out of business if we didn't give them our money for what amounts to an almost complete waste of time. Once a year was what we did, most of the time. And you know what? None of my teeth fell out!

It should be noted, though, that a lot of problems that people have with their teeth are genetic, not the result of missing cleanings or whatever. As such, many people do NEED more routine care as their teeth are prone to issues that mine, personally, are not. So I'm not saying that people are dumb for going to the dentist routinely. I'm just saying that I'm with you, it's a silly thing to miss school over.

Molly said...

I'd like to start by saying your dentist has totally unreasonable hours: No Fridays??! No afternoons? Last I checked, most people have jobs that go later than the end of the school day. It is totally unreasonable to ask people to miss work for their kids' appointments.

That said, when my son needs an appointment, he misses school. I don't think it'll hurt him; I let him know that missing school is not acceptable, but sometimes it has to be done when other important things have to happen. Luckily, we live in Wisconsin now, where I as a parent can have my son miss up to 10 days for any reason with no penalty, but no school he's ever been to (and he's been to school in three states because we've moved for jobs) has ever given us a problem about missing for appointments and the like.

YMMV, but unless you've scheduled your doctor/dentist appointment during a major high school test like a midterm or a final, it's probably not going to affect your kids' educational outcomes in any significant way; my mother was actively anti-school and kept myself and my three siblings out of school whenever she felt like it, along with having very low standards for staying home sick. If we wanted to be out of school we pretty much were. My sister missed fifty days of school one year. Despite this, we are all smart, all interested in continuing our educations, two of us are college graduates (one brother's still in school, one decided against further schooling when he got a job in construction) and I'm going back for my master's next year, probably in teaching.

It's kind of an extension of the "my mother worked, but I'm OK" phenomenon: your kids will be fine if they have to miss school once or twice a year for doctor/dentist appointments.

Shoshie said...

Ugh, I completely agree. I tend to leave for work before places open and get home long after they close. If I need to go to the doctor or the dentist or the bank or the post office or whatever, it's closed! Or I need to miss work. It drives me completely nuts. You're providing a service to real people, most of whom work during the day. Why can't you take that into account?

Lucinda said...

I don't have children, but I have to say that I'm sick to death of having to miss work to see a doctor or dentist. I have to get my teeth cleaned every three months (thanks, periodontal disease!)

I can't figure out an alternative, though. I do find myself wishing that medical practices and dental practices would do what hairdressers do - take off Sundays and Mondays and work a monstrous Friday and Saturday. My partner works for a clinic that is open all day saturday.

coolcoastcat said...

As the wife of a dentist, if you supervise your kids' brushing sometimes or do it yourself sometimes, and if they're not letting food sit on their teeth for long periods (like bread or sodas) they should do fine if they don't visit exactly every six months (if you develop a ritual it helps to remember to go).Some people really need to get there 2x/yr so it's not a completely bad thing to saturate the nation with this "expectation." But if it's really stressful, draw it out to maybe every 8 or 9 months and don't feel guilty, but not longer--gotta catch problems early. You can switch to a general dentist who is wonderful with kids. I've never known a good ped. dent., but only crappy-quality ones (easy specialty & easy to dupe patients there more than in others.)Re schedules, DH barely stopped working on Fridays (he works on Fri, but pprwrk only).He's in a dental specialty, and he is exhausted every single night when he gets home around 7:45 (We live 12 mins/away and his last patient leaves at 5:30).He didn't go through many yrs of post-grad programs to then work himself to death.He decided to stop seeing patients on Fri cuz even though he uses the best microscopes and chairs, his job is physically stressing and intellectually exhausting.He also needs to retain his employees-keep em happy.I used to think bad things of dentists (easy hours,high prices) but now I see it from a VERY different view because if he's superior, he's giving 110% while he's working and has earned as much free time as he wants; just because lots of people work 5 days/wk and have a boss really isn't a valid reason that everyone should!I know some dentists who overprice, we charge same as a gendent (but w much better skill) and someone would still think it's too much.We went into debt almost 7 figures for schooling and start-up, so anytime you see a professional you're going to have to pay for his expenses. It's just plain stupid to expect great quality from a great person but only pay him beans for it (unless you're poor, and my husband does lots of free stuff for needy people). There are going to be thousands of docs & others dropping out of healthcare if it all goes public, seriously. There's no motivation to live like poor college students with 4 kids for 11 yrs and take out 1M in loans to not be free to do your own schedule and set your own prices and practice philosophy. Some general dentists do procedures they should NEVER be touching (keeping the money in-house rather than referring the serious problem to a specialist like the vulnerable and believing patient deserves), and that makes me sick. Go to a specialist if you want recsof good general dents (we never mention someone's name to get more referrals, and we can only rec. three as having truly great skill sets). And RUN from a practice that makes money from lots of insurance because they're into quantity, not quality. HTH! Change your current dentist if schedule is top priority.Great blog!!!

Trinka said...

I guess I'm just more laid-back. I don't see taking a couple hours off two days/year as being that detrimental.

I expect I'll have to take time off work for such things. It's not that work is less important ... it's just that some things must be done during the day. That's why jobs have personal days, and why schools expect an occasional excused absence.

From my memories of school, there was SO much repetition in order to teach to the slower members of the class, that the average child could miss a couple hours without any harm!

Well-Rounded Mama said...

I think it depends a lot on the teacher and the class and the student. Certainly there are classes that it's not that big a deal to miss....but there are also PLENTY of classes for which any missed time really hurts the learning. And of course there are some students who will likely be fine no matter what they miss, but there are others who it hurts tremendously to miss class.

I have plenty of friends who are teachers and the one thing they CONSISTENTLY complain about is student absences. How it's just so difficult for kids to make up in-class time if they miss it,and how completing a makeup assignment just isn't the same. Some things just cannot be made up easily.

I can see their point. One absence, once in a happens. But add in the dentist appts., the illnesses, the dr appts, the family trips, Uncle Joe's wedding, Auntie Sue's all adds up to a LOT of absences in some kids. And that can really add up to a lot of problems for some kids.

I just don't think that ROUTINE cleanings should come out of school time. And how can you predict ahead of time which class, which day, which topic will be "missable"? You don't know, 6 months from now when you are scheduling, whether they have a chemistry lab on that day or critical lecture or key hands-on project.

And what about the kids with braces, who "need" to miss school every 4-6 weeks for adjustments, in addition to regular cleanings? That's a LOT of missed school. Having banker's hours so there is simply no choice but to schedule during school is just UNACCEPTABLE, in my opinion.

Tami said...

I'm a homeschooler, so missing school isn't an issue, but we do make a point of seeking out doctors and dentists with more flexibility in their schedules. We look for providers with Saturday and evening hours, so we can avoid InstaCare as much as possible. We rarely need the extra hours, but it's nice to know it's available when we need it.

Kaywinnet said...

Honestly...I don't get this. My husband works basically banker's hours as well and he has to take off work to take care of ANYTHING involving another business. Hell, we only get to do laundry every other month or so because there are no laundromats open when he's off work. Education IS very important, and absences bother me immensely as I've seen them used and abused time and time again, but this is just preparing them for Real Life. After they graduate and have jobs of their own, they're going to miss days and have to know how to catch up just the same!