Well, it was just a matter of time before we closed our doors again. But this time, it was different. Way different.
I was in Salt Lake City for a long weekend, when my office manager told me she was going to get tested for COVID-19. She hadn’t been feeling well for a couple days, and since my humble little town in Montana had just become a COVID-19 hot spot, I said, “Great. No worries. Just keep me posted.”
I pushed through the weekend, and on Sunday evening, just as I was about to board my plane, I got a call not only from my office manager but also the oral surgeon with whom I’d done a double-arch All-on-4 case five days prior. Both had tested positive. Double punch.
Photo courtesy of the authorShortly thereafter, I received a few messages from staff expressing their concern. Given the circumstances and taking into account numerous things in a very short period of time, I decided to close my office doors for a minimum of a week (we were already five days in). I sent a group text to my staff informing them and asking them to stand by for developments. I told my front desk team to communicate with one another so they could reconfigure the schedule. Further, my office manager and I had a good discussion about protocol, finances, and what to do to manage staff, patients, and the business aspect of things.
Here is a quick lowdown of my preflight checklist and talking points:
In reality, I was left with my pragmatic approach to the situation. I’m not naive as to what’s going on; I have the advantage of seeing the status quo through a medical lens, and as such, it allowed me the perspective and ability to filter through the bombast of information out there that’s being skewed and misinterpreted through news, social media forums, and everything else in-between. You know exactly what I’m referring to. Essentially, as a business owner, I had to take the reins and do what was best for me, my staff, my patients, my business, and my community. Tough call? Yes, but that’s what we do.
As the week progressed and things settled in, our patients continued to be understanding (although my hygiene schedule is now out of control, I don’t have an opening until March, and yes, I’m looking for another hygienist).
Everyone is at last well, healthy, and continuing on that path called life. Was this a welcomed disruption? No. Have we made the best of it? Yes. Have I learned from it? Absolutely.
When March 2020 arrived, we all got cut off at the knees and were left like deer caught in the headlights trying to navigate toward something we had no clue about. There was so much unknown. But this time, I feel like we have our feet underneath us.
I was having a cup of coffee the other day, and I thought of an analogy that fits this scenario to a T. This “status quo” we exist in is like a revolving door. We are all waiting in line to pass through the “COVID-19 door.” It’s not a matter of if, but when. The experience for everyone will be different; regardless, the door will keep revolving and we’ll all eventually walk back into the swing of things. We just need to keep taking the necessary steps to move through the door.
I’m sure I’m not the only one who can shed light on this matter, but if I were to offer any advice, it would be that we need to be prepared for a closure—or at the very least, a modification of our schedules—at a moment’s notice. I confess that I was caught off guard and, to some degree, not as prepared as I should have been (but then again, walking through an airport on a Sunday prior to a busy workweek ahead isn’t ideal either). Don’t fall down the rabbit hole of panic and mayhem, as it is so easy to do. Reaffirm to your staff, patients, and community that dentistry is safe, needed, essential, and important to our continued health and well-being. Lastly, be flexible, compassionate, and don’t get emotional.
After a week of monitoring symptoms, my team is back at it. In the meantime, I enjoyed my cup of coffee while watching the snow fly in the frozen tundra that Montana is at this time of year.
What’s my take-home? No matter what, carpe diem because tempus neminem manet—seize the day because time waits for no one.
Cheers, all! S
As an aside, all of my patients, staff, and family are healthy and have come through everything A-OK. Yes, even yours truly. Fist bump!
Editor’s note: This article first appeared in Through the Loupes newsletter, a publication of the Endeavor Business Media Dental Group. Read more articles at this link and subscribe here.
Stacey L. Gividen, DDS, a graduate of Marquette University School of Dentistry, is in private practice in Hamilton, Montana. She is a guest lecturer at the University of Montana in the anatomy and physiology department. Dr. Gividen is the editorial co-director of Through the Loupes and a contributing author for DentistryIQ, Perio-Implant Advisory, and Dental Economics. She serves on the Dental Economics editorial advisory board. You may contact her at email@example.com.
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