Compassion Fatigue


Mark Costes, founder and CEO of the Dental Success Institute, and owner and clinical director for 6 different dental practices across Arizona and California talk about wrestling with compassion fatigue while juggling business ownership and personal life.

The COVID-19 shelter-in-place mandate hit Mark Costes harder than most, due to his multiple business ventures all simultaneously impacted by it. Mark had to postpone his Dental Success Summit (scheduled for March 27-28, with 750 registered attendees) while at the same time oversee the pivot of his 6 dental practices from general care to emergencies only and handle the layoff of 45 employees.

But Mark wasn’t the only one impacted by this, and his role as an educator and advisor for practice owners across the country was now being fully put to the test.

“We counted the number of texts I got in one day; I got 391 texts… it was people in crisis”

Mark knew people were counting on him. He wanted to create a network for those looking to find help and support. He was scrambling to pull resources together and keep up with the ever-changing landscape of information.

“It’s been a full-time job just trying to figure out the PPP and the SBA loans… [I’ve been calling] all of my attorney friends, my CPA friends, my HR friends, and just getting them on podcasts”

When we talk about Don’t Step Back, Step Up Mark was certainly putting this on full display. The challenge right now, Mark explains, “is compassion fatigue on steroids.” On a typical treatment schedule, health care providers can experience serious emotional drain from engaging in the suffering of others. Now dentists are caring for not only patients, but also their staff while many have to be laid off or furloughed, and their families back home while kids are home from school, and stress levels are at an all-time high.

“I want to be there for people right now because I know that people are suffering… but at the same time, you have to maintain your own sanity and you have to make sure you’re not sacrificing your own time with your own family.”

Despite the many changes elsewhere, Mark has fought to maintain a relatively consistent routine to protect his health and well being. For Mark that looks like consistent morning workouts, journaling, and meditation. Despite working 12 hour days, Mark knows his priority towards self-care must remain secure.

“Getting involved with communities where a lot of other people are experiencing the same emotions and the same challenges is so important”

Mark has also seen the necessity to leverage the power of collaboration and connection. His Dental Success Network has become a thriving environment for the sharing of information, experiences, and support among dentists. We’ve seen many online communities like his thriving during this time of “social distancing” and will continue to increase in importance heading into the future.


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