It is no surprise to anyone that our world is a much different place than it was just a few short months ago. Some businesses are still closed. Some restaurants are still only doing curbside service. Some of us were introduced to unemployment benefits for the first time. Masked individuals are a normal part of our everyday lives, and our body temperatures likely are being monitored as never before.
I would also imagine that many of us have probably had a little more time on our hands than usual due to the coronavirus. On an encouraging note, a large majority of dental offices have returned to work after being closed for weeks or months in some capacity or another. We undoubtedly are working under new protocols or a new normal. I applaud all of the efforts made by dentists and staff to read the recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Dental Association, making the necessary changes in their own office to begin safely seeing patients again, even though it may be at a reduced flow for now.
While there are plenty of troublesome or negative events happening in our world right now, I would like to take this opportunity and highlight the “positives” that may have come from this virus and the downtime we have experienced.
Thrown into Homeschooling
Many dental professionals were laid off temporarily to help “flatten the curve,” and that allowed for a lot of togetherness and family time. Some of you probably had to take on the role of teacher and homeschooled your children through the last few weeks of the previous school year.
Congratulations! We, too, homeschooled both of our children several years ago from elementary through high school graduation, and I know firsthand that is not an easy task, especially when you are just abruptly thrown into it. But hopefully, you became more aware of what your children are learning, what their strengths and weaknesses are, and were able to interject into their daily learning what you as a parent felt was important for them to learn.
We always enjoyed the flexibility of being a homeschool family. We could tailor the days around what we needed to accomplish academically. We watched movies together that went along with what they were learning, took field trips, and, of course, also had fun with their extracurricular activities.
Some of you have possibly decided that this is for your family and that you want to do this full time rather than return to work, nixing the kids’ return to public school. Win/win!
A Fresh Look at Employer
Losing a job even temporarily is not what the majority of people want for obvious reasons. But I believe we gained a wealth of important information by seeing how your employer/management handled the current situation with this virus and how it impacted yourself, other staff members, and patients.
Were you well taken care of emotionally and financially, or were you left to just kind of figure it out for yourself? It was most definitely a time full of stress and uncertainty, and I hope that you learned your bosses care for you and showed that in how they helped you navigate through this time and did not just dismiss your fears and concerns.
Some of us for the first time in our careers went on unemployment, and, depending on the state you live in, that in itself was a huge hurdle to leap just to be assured some financial stability while we waited to start working again. Some employers called and checked on employees weekly. Others had Zoom conferences to keep staff updated. PTO was made available in some situations to bridge the gap where unemployment fell short.
Other employers offered for staff to come in and do cleaning or administrative tasks that we normally do not have extra time to do. Colleagues remember these days and how things were handled. You received a glimpse of how you are valued or undervalued in the office you work. Either way, it is great information for you to know.
Prepared for Reopening
For those who have returned to work, I would hope that it was after many discussions about how to reopen and what should be done prior to that happening. Kudos to you!
You may have found that this virus and the protocols that needed to be implemented prompted you to do things that you should have been doing already and possibly were not. We all need a refresher from time to time. Headcovers, face shields, and isolation gowns really aren’t that bad once you get used to them. The N95 mask, on the other hand, is a necessary evil, and adapting to it for me has been much more difficult.
The dental industry is certainly no stranger to proper disinfection and sterilization techniques. Maybe this extra time, though, gave your team an opportunity to review your current practices and tweak where necessary. I know our office used this time to do some deep cleaning in the operatories, update our OSHA manuals, make sure batteries in the AED were fully charged, check expiration dates of medicines in the emergency kit, review medical history forms and update them, and review medical emergency protocols.
Hopefully, you were able to take care of some of those tasks during your weeks off. If not, better late than never!
Yes, the coronavirus has been extremely hard on our world in 2020. I am heartbroken over the loss of life, loss of jobs, financial hardship, and mental anguish that this virus has caused so many. I was temporarily laid off and gave up my husband for two months as he deployed with his Army Reserve unit to New York to care for COVID-19 patients in the Javits Center and hard-hit Elmhurst Hospital as a critical care nurse.
So, I know it has been tough. But we will persevere, and I hope that I have been able to showcase a few positives that may have come from this experience. Please remember that tough times will pass, but tough people will remain. Stay strong!