This is weird. Do you remember when your biggest frustration used to be getting the perfect contact for that class 2 restoration?
Many weeks into COVID-19, we still find ourselves in the upside down with a brand-new vocabulary of “social distancing” and “shelter in place,” and my mom asking me about PPE. The industry ramifications and impacts continue to ripple. Our social media newsfeed is filled with questionable sources and the latest gossip. It is to no surprise that we find ourselves surrounded with uncertainty and mistrust.
I remember when the news about the coronavirus began ramping up in the media cycle. We had a patient cancel their appointment because they had lost their job. I remember my first gut thought was to share with my team that at least dentistry, as an essential health care service, would continue to serve.
A week later, we were recommended to go to emergencies only. Our office worked hard to track our numbers and calculate what we could provide for our team. Three weeks later, we found ourselves furloughed and helping others learn more about applying for unemployment while we researched the daily updates on the small business relief that our office unfortunately has still not received to this day.
Here are some things that helped my dental team and me during the disruption, and is now helping us as we move forward in this age of COVID-19:
While we move through this different world view together, my dental team has found trust through transparency. When dentistry recommendations were initially announced in Oklahoma, we walked our team through a presentation communicating what was about to happen and the importance of flattening the curve and social distancing. We discussed how we would triage and treat emergency situations and walked everyone through scenarios involving furloughs. We used our office numbers to demonstrate our office’s survivability and to what extent we could support. We especially carved out time to listen and hear the concerns and worries about our family, friends, and livelihood.
Innovation in communication
As time moved on, our team took refuge in three avenues of communication: daily Zoom meetings dubbed “virtual learning” sessions, office emails, and GroupMe chats. With the shuttering of elective dental procedures, multiple dental webinars were launched boasting an impressive catalogue of dental knowledge. For two hours every morning, team members were welcome to attend sessions where we shared dental CE and motivational messages, and helped brainstorm for our office’s return. This daily routine brought a sense of normalcy to a disrupted schedule and gave our team a goal to set our focus on. Office emails and GroupMe chats were used to keep in touch and help guide our team as we navigated the opportunity to refine systems.
Considerations in a new normal
As we move towards our next phase, as states begin to reopen, we anticipated concerns, fears, and the desire to be heard. Our first step was to use a virtual learning session to walk through all the anticipated changes with PPE and patients moving throughout our office. During this time, our team members in each department helped us identify small, detailed touchpoints that we hadn’t considered in preparation for this meeting. The team’s feedback throughout this process was invaluable. While no decisions were made, we listened carefully to each team member’s viewpoints and took them into consideration as we finalized our new protocols. A second virtual learning session was used to walk our team through all the nuances of working our way back to a new normal. We made it clear to our team that our priorities remained focused on the health of our patients and team members and that PPE would be in place before patients were scheduled to return.
This is a concept that as a new dentist, I have learned and studied over time. Easily lost and hard to win back, trust rules all. Ask a favor from a trusted confidant, you’ll know they have your back. Look towards someone whose trust you haven’t earned, you’ll receive questions and skepticism.
My experience is one of many stories of dentists and dental teams navigating these uncharted times. Returning to dentistry as we once knew it isn’t a likely scenario. New concerns will emerge from all angles. Our team understands that we will continue to meet and refine our systems to ensure both our patients and team feel safe and secure. We will continue to build trust with our team through transparency and innovate as we design our new normal.
Dr. Daryn Lu is a New Dentist Now guest blogger and a general dentist in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma at Dental32. He is a member of the ADA, Oklahoma Dental Association and Oklahoma County Dental Society. A 2015 graduate from the University of Oklahoma College of Dentistry, Daryn’s passion for his profession shows through his extensive history within organized dentistry. From an eager predental member of the American Student Dental Association (ASDA) to a passionate local, district, and national volunteer leader — the depth of his experiences has helped shape him as a dental professional and lifelong learner. In his spare time, Daryn is an avid traveler, self-proclaimed foodie, and social media junkie. He lives to travel, travels to eat and shares foodie pictures on your newsfeed.