What does it mean to have “people skills?” Often the phrase is used to describe someone who is social or personable—someone who is comfortable engaging with others.

For Jenice Wolfe, marketing and human resources director at Omaha Braces, Omaha, Neb, having what’s known as people skills goes beyond a warm smile and an inviting personality. Instead, for her, the skill set she relies on most is her ability to communicate articulately with others.

Throughout the past 29 years that she has worked with patients and team members at Omaha Braces, she’s fine-tuned the ability to understand the varied types of personalities that walk through the front door of the practice.

“In college, my concentrations were in advertising and psychology—both areas of study that are really needed in a job where you work with the public,” Wolfe explains. “When you’re dealing with busy parents and patients, as well as a busy office staff, you have to understand what’s happening, mentally and emotionally, with everyone.”

Like many professionals working in successful practices today, Wolfe wears a variety of hats in her day-to-day role. Translation: She experiences a variety of issues that span from resolving website complications to managing the team of staff members, all the way to meeting with first-time patients. In every instance of her day, she refers to the same page in her play-book: Communication.

“When I sit down with a family or an adult patient, if there’s something blocking them from feeling completely at ease, I can feel that wall,” Wolfe explains. “If I just say, ‘How can I help you? How can I make this work? What can I do?’ the parent or patient will tell me. From there, I’m able to put them at ease and give them the resolution and security they’re after. And the same thing goes for our staff members as well. It’s all about listening and communicating.”

Wolfe’s ability to defuse issues, answer concerns, and provide support comes after nearly 3 decades at the practice. Throughout that time, she has seen thousands of patients walk in and out of the door, but she’s never missed a beat on her enthusiasm for what she does.

“In the marketing role, in the practice, and in the HR role, you have to, above all, have a genuine desire to really care about the patient and the team,” she notes. “When I meet with a new patient, I’m excited to have them be a part of our family. That’s a part of my nature. You have to care about the patient in the chair and their family; all the good things follow that.”

When asked, Wolfe will explain that even on the toughest of days, keeping an even keel is made easier by the tone of the office, which, she notes, is set by the doctor, Clarke Stevens, DDS, MS.

“Our office, each day, has an atmosphere that is energetic and fun,” Wolfe says. “Dr Stevens has that personality. To me, that’s one of the fun parts of orthodontics; when kids come in and they are shy or scared, and then they see other kids their age having fun and laughing. I love to see the weight lift off their shoulders each time they walk through the door.”

Omaha Braces is a fun and energetic practice, but it is also a well-oiled machine. And, as Wolfe explains, much of her day is spent applying that oil. Understandably, over the course of 29 years, her role has transitioned and evolved. When she first came on board, she was stationed at the front desk, but that didn’t stop her from learning the ins-and-outs of nearly all the operational tasks, including what was going on in the patient bay. But, as Wolfe explains, that’s par for the course at the practice.

“Our entire team consists of well-rounded professionals,” Wolfe says. “The front desk knows what’s happening chair-side and vice-versa. Across the board, we communicate with each other so that we all know what is going on at all times. We’re a strong unit of talented people and we rely on each other each day.”

To get to this point of operational efficiency, Wolfe explains that she and the office team are often encouraged to attend seminars, leadership conferences, and skill-building workshops. “While we attend many orthodontic-related seminars and courses throughout the year, our team also works on strengthening our abilities to communicate, work as a team, and grow as professionals.”

In any profession, education is the key to growth. For Wolfe, she looks at the future and the potential it holds, while also realizing how far her role with the practice has come. “To look back on it all, 29 years is a long time to be in one place, but I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else,” she adds. “My work life is also my life. It’s not just a job. It’s a part of me.” OP

Lori Sichtermann is a freelance writer for Orthodontic Products. She can be reached at [email protected].