• Tonya Burns

What it's Like in a Dental Office After Covid-19 Quarantine

Updated: Jun 25, 2020

As Consultants, Coaches, Owners and Managers, we need to not only focus on patient care and concern during this pandemic but focusing on our clients and teams should be of utmost importance.

Are we all exhausted with COVID questions, handouts, news, correspondence, social media and more? YES! All I want to do is fix it and have us all hold hands like in the Coca Cola commercial from 1971. You know the one, where all the people are on a mountain wanting to buy each other a Coke.

I have recently witnessed situations that concern me in social media, email and conversation in dental forums and groups. As a team of people that our clients and teams respect and look up to, we as role models need to respect other peoples concerns and manage their expectations. When their office reopens after the setback, it won’t be as if Elsa opened the gates to her kingdom and the towns people came rushing in, it will be more like the Brady Bunch episode where Peter throws himself a party and no one shows up.

Not only do I coach, but I am in an active dental office 4 days a week. I have not stopped speaking to my team, speaking to patients, insurance billing, patient collections, working with the dentist and owner, and managing the expectations of my team and patients daily! I am very lucky to work for someone who trusts my judgement, who communicates with me and allows me to make decisions in many areas, including COVID protocols and policies.

When we were first allowed to open, I interviewed each employee that was returning and asked several questions about their concerns, what they needed and what changes they felt needed to be made. My entire team was very good in helping get us ready to reopen. I made an order to our supplier EVERY DAY since March 19th and the next day if the item(s) was not available, I reordered. I honestly lost track of how many times I ordered gloves, masks, disposable gowns and caps. But eventually, I received what we needed in plenty of time to reopen. In addition, thanks to my team communications, I knew what we needed. We also discussed our new routine for patient arrival, seating, and exiting. We practiced our new routine, tweaked it, and still make changes daily, but it is working.

ALL these changes take time and patience. I believe we as leaders need to be sympathetic to the stress, because it is stressful.

Now that we have been working this routine for over 6 weeks, our office is back to being efficient, even though many job duties are taking longer. I am still exhausted! I cry, not in front of my team, but when I am alone. I cry because I still don’t have my full team back. I cry because I have patients that want to wait until 2021 to cement their crown prepped in March. I cry because my 12 year old daughter doesn’t get to go to “Grandma Camp” this year because Grandma lives in a “hot spot.” I cry because I have been working in the dental field for over 20 years and I need a vacation, weekends are not enough.

That being said, we need to rebuild the trust and respect we have worked so hard over the years to obtain. Our team, clients and patients trusted us before this setback, they will trust us now. It is our job to make sure they continue to rely on us, count on us, and we are confident in the advice we give them and not discount their fears and concerns. It is also our job to educate ourselves on real life expectations, not how we “think” this will work.

How can we as consultants, coaches, owners and managers facilitate with these changes? We must change the way we think. Imagining what happens in dental offices is not enough. Think about the safety changes that were made after 9/11. You can no longer arrive at the airport at 9:00am for your 9:45am flight at Chicago Midway and get to the gate on time nor can you can’t bring a friend to watch your plane take off. Now you allow for more time, now your friend drops you off instead of coming in, now you must allow for newer protocols and procedures. This is not going away; it is our job to make help them through it. Therefore every time you enter the grocery store in a mask and you complain about how hot, itchy and uncomfortable it is, think about your team(s) and your client(s) and what they are going through to stay open, stay employed and see patients and start seeing life through their eyes.

Written by Stephanie Swartz, Consultant and Director of Operations

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