Times have changed. Once again, Bob Dylan’s words ring true – “the times they are a-changin.” Remember when we saw the word Zoom and our thoughts were of white teeth? Now we hear the word Zoom and we think of webinars!
The world of dentistry, and dentistry across the world, has been turned completely upside-down due to COVID-19. Within a month, the novel coronavirus brought our profession to a screeching halt. Dental offices are now only allowed to perform procedures deemed “essential” emergencies, with the goal of keeping patients away from hospital emergency rooms.
The old “normal” day-to-day dental office routine of only a few months ago may no longer be our new normal. At this point, it is far too early to tell what our new normal will look like. How will our personal protective equipment (PPE) requirements change? How will infection control protocols change? Will operatory design standards change? Will our schedule be limited to a certain number of patients at a time? Nobody knows what changes lie ahead.
Now is not the time to postulate or worry about what we don’t know. There are many differing opinions circulating in the dental world about what the future practice of dentistry will look like. Dentistry’s governing bodies will surely have new recommendations on how we can safely care for our patients. Presumptively acting out of fear or worry may result in us spending unnecessary time and money on supplies or equipment we may not ultimately need. Before new rules and regulations come out, I believe our time can be much better spent concentrating on what we can control now.
One thing I am sure of is people will still need dental care. We as dentists need to be prepared to provide that care. I have chosen to focus on the things I know I need to make it through this TEMPORARY setback. I am focused on ensuring our TEAM stays intact, our physical office is ready for the “new normal,” we have a plan for scheduling overdue patients and our financial position allows us to succeed.
COVID-19 RESOURCES: We’ve created a new Spear Online resource page with practice management and clinical tools to navigate the COVID-19 crisis, so your team has the latest information to mitigate the financial impact and prepare to treat patients once operations return to normal.
I believe we have been given a great gift of time. Not to speak for everyone, but isn’t time something most of us used to say we never have enough of? What a great opportunity we have been given to be reflective on our families, our practices and our lives in general. Professionally, I have spent much of the past month analyzing our practice. What has helped us be successful? How have we gotten where we are? Who has helped us get here? Where are we going? Who have we helped in return? What can we do for the greater good?
Below, I offer five things I have learned or am learning during this COVID-19 pandemic.
1. I’ve learned to have an even deeper appreciation for my health and the health of those close to me.
My wife, Karen, and I and our three boys are all healthy. We are thankful to be safe at home, enjoying our new routine. We eat more meals together, play more card games and enjoy playing more in the backyard. We have enjoyed using FaceTime to stay in contact with long-distance family. I have three grandparents, all 90+ years old, who are still healthy and happy amid the chaos. I am thankful.
Yes, I’ve always appreciated life and I am thankful my health does not restrict me from my activities. I’ve hiked mountains, run marathons, rafted rivers and surfed oceans. But now, more than ever, I am thankful for the gift of waking up healthy. I am also appreciative for all the health care workers who are not at home because they are taking care of those who are sick.
Have you called your loved ones? Reach out today.
2. I’m learning about our office team’s commitment to our practice and each other.
As the saying goes, “It’s not how good you are when things are good, it’s how good you are when things are not going well that define you.” I have seen both sides of this spectrum in the last few weeks with our team of six (actually, now five).
On one side of the spectrum, in the earlier days before the recommended shutdown, we had a newer team member – a receptionist – tell us she would not be at work the day before the weekend because she was going to self-isolate due to fear of contracting the virus. Fair enough, health is top priority and her request for the day off was granted. Problem was, the next day a close friend of ours saw her at the park with three of her friends – not really what we would call self-isolating! This showed a complete disregard for our practice and left the rest of our team members working hard to make up for her not being there.
On the other end of the spectrum, our assistant who has been with us for 19 of our 20 years came to me to ask about unemployment. She was genuinely nervous how her taking unemployment would negatively impact the practice, and she may not request it for that reason. Can you believe the selflessness in that conversation? As the weeks have passed, each of our remaining five employees have been very generous in offering to come individually to the office and do whatever is needed to ensure the practice is ready for reopening.
No doubt you have taken a step back and analyzed your team’s commitment to your practice philosophy. Have you learned who you can count on? Is everyone committed as much as you thought? What does your gut tell you? What are you going to do about it? How strong will your team be when this is over?
3. I’m learning where in the dental profession to turn for help and who is coming to me for help.
I am texting and talking with my small core group of dental buddies on how to handle this pandemic. We are exchanging ideas on how to position our practices for reopening. We are reminding each other everything is going to be OK and we are not alone in this pandemic. I have been talking with my brother who is an OMFS in California about the latest developments on the other side of the country and how he is handling emergencies. I have also heard from dental friends whom I’ve always respected, but otherwise haven’t been in recent contact. How nice to renew friendships based on trust within a crisis.
It has been great to have Spear as a major practice management resource. Our dedicated Practice Solutions consultant, has been a rock star. She has continuously helped us develop our break-even strategy, worked with us to implement Practice Solutions’ four recovery initiatives, and made sure our current strategies fit into an ever-changing annual plan.
Spear’s new webinars have also been fantastic. I have been very impressed with Spear’s ability to stay current on all the information and how they involve the dental community. Every day, Spear presents a new webinar with a new topic on how to survive and succeed during the pandemic. Clinical webinars have been sprinkled in with practice management webinars to help us not lose focus on what we love about dentistry.
Who is in your dental corner? Who has the best interest of your dental practice in mind? Are you in a study club and have you become closer or drifted apart? Where have you turned for help or to have your dental questions answered?
Your core group of dental support is defining itself before your eyes as a result of the COIVD-19 situation.
4. I’m learning how prepared our office was for a crisis.
Living and practicing in Wilmington, on the coast of North Carolina, we always have hurricane preparedness in the back of our minds. We have always positioned our practice for the very real possibility of being closed for a week or so due to a bad hurricane.
Thankfully, some of this preparation has helped us for the coronavirus shut down. Some areas of our office emergency plan have proven sufficient, some have proven deficient because of the length of time we have been unable to practice.
In the application period for our PPP SBA loan, I was in direct contact with our accountant. His presence and ability to navigate the application process made me feel at ease. Our banker reached out to me first to see if we needed anything like a line of credit or to defer a mortgage payment.
I have learned how our top expenses are affected in a crisis. How is your emergency fund holding up? Have you been in contact with your accountant? Your banker? Your insurance agent? Your attorney?
How responsive are they to your needs? What expenses are necessary and what can wait? Now is a good reminder to identify your long-term vision if you are needing to cut expenses now.
5. I have always known, have learned, and will continue to remind myself that a positive attitude is everything.
The power of a positive mindset has brought me through many life adventures. I have learned in my days of running marathons and triathlons when things are taken away from you, when you are tired and ready to give up, these are the very same times when you get stronger.
These are the times you can look at a crisis as an opportunity to grow. Consider this crisis a challenge. Gather those around you who will help you succeed. There will be anxiety and fear. Fear is a strong emotion. You cannot run from it. Have the courage to face fear with a rational and positive mindset for the long-term future. When a crisis hits, weakness will expose itself. But I believe, more powerfully, when a crisis hits, we have a chance to look at ourselves and focus on our strengths.
Who has your back? Who or what makes you anxious? Spend time with those people who are positive. Who can you influence with your positive mindset?
Yes, no doubt these are tough and uncertain times. But they will pass and we will be getting back to the profession we love. Stay positive, stay proactive, plan, prepare and prosper for the long term.
I look forward to seeing you online or on campus soon.
Brent Bush, D.D.S., is a member of Spear Visiting Faculty.