Mindreading in a dental practice

June 18, 2020

Mindreading in a dental practice: Fear and stress are ramped up, but focus on the positives and the belief that we will all get through this pandemic.

I am calling out the elephant in the room. That elephant right now is fear. As I have talked to numerous members in the dental field, this one issue keeps rearing its ugly head. Employees are scared to go to work in a dental office. Here is what they are sharing.

The dentist: “I gave my PPE away when we were asked to, and I don’t know how to protect my staff. Can I get more PPE when I need it in time? We are seeing 50% of our usual patients. This is a business and all the overhead and costs to run it require me to work at full capacity. My employees do not understand that. I feel more and more stressed as a small business owner. I want to keep my patients and staff safe. But I also need to pay my bills. The frightening part is that I have no idea how to plan for the future since no one knows what is going to happen next.”

The dental hygienist: “I feel like I am walking into a storm that is about to turn into a hurricane. Here I am, the most at-risk person in a dental practice. Why? Because I am on the front lines with my hands in someone’s mouth the entire time they are here. The dentist pops in to see my work after the cleaning is over, but I am still in there the longest. I am afraid. What if I catch this illness and bring it home to my family? I understand that everyone is stressed out, but the tension here at work is out-of-control! Everyone is on edge, and it was never like this before. When I get home, all I want to do is go to bed. I am overheated from the masks, which I want to go on record saying, “I hate!” 

The receptionist: “This is hard. I must talk to patients through a mask and through plexiglass. Do you know how hard it is to hear some of these patients who are soft spoken? And do not get me started on the ones who have trouble hearing. I get nervous when they cannot hear me and then pull their mask down. My job was stressful before. Now I must worry if patients are no shows. Because, working only at partial capacity means that a no show is dead time. Will they furlough me? I was the last hired. I guess the dentist must be stressing about it, but what can you do? What can anyone do?”

These are just some of the conversations that I am hearing. And yes, no one I am talking to is saying anything positive, hopeful, or upbeat. That just is not where we are today. But we need to look at this situation different. 

What are you grateful for?

1.   I have a job. So many have been furloughed and may be permanently unemployed.

2.   We are healthy. No one in my family has gotten sick.

3.   The kids are now off school. Helping them online just added to this unbelievable stress that we are all under.

4.   My bandwidth held out at home with all of us on the internet at the same time.

5.   Since it is June, we can go outside more since the rainy season is over.

6.   My dentist is trying to keep us all safe. That fact that he is trying is important to me.

7.   My family has been trying to support me going through this rough time.

8.   Friends have made me cloth masks for when I am not at work. They are much more comfortable than the PPE.

9.   People are kinder. When I go walking the person coming towards me steps off the curb and walks in the street instead of me doing that.

10. The storm knocked out our power over night, and it came back on in the morning. Without air conditioning, I am not sure how I could manage right now.

There are many things going on right now. Alcohol use is up. People are frustrated and more stressed than ever. Depression and anxiety are ratcheted up. Domestic violence is up as well. But, even with these kinds of stressors, we are survivors. We will survive this. We will get through this. A big part in getting through this is improving communication. Apologize if you go off on someone. Be honest with your staff with the stress of keeping the practice running. Realize that it is ok to tell people what is going on. Do not take things seriously if someone vents inappropriately. Remember, it is going to get better. Life will go on. Change is happening rapidly. But do not forget, you are not alone. You do not need to read someone’s mind to know that. The entire world is in this with you.