Role Playing Made Fun and Effective

When it comes to the phrase “role playing,” many dental team members react the way lay people respond when they hear “root canal.”  They do not want any part of it.  Just as modern root canals are often comfortable for patients and the procedure removes the source of their discomfort, role playing can be made fun and effective. What’s the catch?  It has to be done right.

Here are some tips for running a successful role playing session.

  1. One person plays the role of the team member while someone else pretends to be the patient.  The person playing the patient role can offer objections to the cost of treatment or throw up other road blocks, but no one should overplay the part.  Forget the histrionics.  The “patient” can be skeptical but must always be polite and at least somewhat malleable.
  2. Each scenario should be no more than one minute long.
  3. Immediately following the session, ask everyone on the team what the role player did right. There can be no criticism until there is praise.
  4. Next, ask the role player what he or she did right.
  5. Ask the role player a key question: “What could you do next time to improve?”
  6. Other team members can chime in, but they have to be supportive. Example: “I agree that you could have asked more open questions, but you were doing great in the beginning.”
  7. Give the role player a chance for redemption by repeating the same scenario. The person you are training will inevitably do better the second time around.
  8. Ask the entire team for comment on why round two was better.
  9. Ask the person you are training if they felt more comfortable when they had a chance to improve. They will almost always concur because they learned what to say and what not to say.
  10. Have others role play.  When the entire session is done, summarize the learning experience and thank everyone for their cooperation.

As you can see, the goal is not to catch someone doing something wrong, but to reward good behavior and encourage the person being trained to make improvements.  The other team members are not really judges but a cheering section.  People tend to be harder on themselves than they are on other people, so don’t worry about bad behavior going unnoticed.

By role playing in a positive fashion, you will help team members learn to deal with difficult situations in the office in a supportive environment.