Welcome to 2022. We, as dentists, hygienists, assistants and office administrators, have now been affected by COVID-19 for almost two years in some way, shape or form. Our dental offices have experienced situations that none of us ever dreamed of even in our worst nightmares. As a dental practice owner, I have learned so much over this time, but must continue to evolve my strategies as new events arise.
First there was lockdown. Then there were split shifts within my office—two complete teams that never had contact with each other, working together in order to ensure that the office would not have to close down again. Once we were comfortable with all of our new PPE and the realization that we, as an office, did far more to keep our team and our patients safe than what was required, we eased into the office running at approximately 75–85% efficiency compared to pre-COVID days. The threat of a possible lockdown once again was enough to keep us diligent in our COVID health protocols.
From a dental owner’s perspective, I figured that 75–85% was horrible, but far better than shutdown. Some of my colleagues scrambled to try and recoup the revenue that was lost during lockdown. I had a different feeling. The time off made me realize that I was feeling less stressed and more relaxed tackling the “new normal” and realizing that no matter how many extra hours my practice would be open, the likelihood of financial recovery of what was lost was not going to happen without causing me significant mental health issues. We tackled every day to the best of our abilities. We started to treatment plan a bit differently and, wouldn’t you know it, our revenues exceeded what we had planned for. “Work smarter not harder” became my mindset.
Trust me, every day there seems to be a new challenge. Staffing was something that I had never really been concerned about, yet we see unprecedented shortages in the workforce today. Auxiliaries are afraid to return to work and quitting the profession. When you endure day-by-day staffing challenges, you certainly realize and appreciate how amazing your team actually is. Without their caring and support, we would never be able to endure these challenges that we face daily.
Now with Omicron being the pandemic stressor, we finally have had our first team member case of COVID. What I decided long ago was that whether a team member has a simple cold or actual COVID-19, the person stays home. Pre-COVID, they would probably work through it. This has kept our team relatively healthy and this will continue to be our plan. As well, we try to keep any under-the-weather patients away from our office as much as possible.
These are just a few of the issues that I have had to change my thinking toward over the last two years. I’m sure there will be more changes on the fly as times and situations change. My message is this: stay safe and keep yourself healthy, both physically and mentally, during this time in our lives.
About the Author
Les Rykiss obtained his DMD from the University of Manitoba in 1990. He has his private practice in Winnipeg, MB. He has attained dip. ABAD status, Fellowship Degrees in FIADFE, FASDA, FICD, and an Associate Fellowship in Lasers from the WCLI. He’s a graduate and Mentor at the Nash Institute for Dental Learning. His dental memberships include the MDA, CDA, ASDA, IADFE, and is the Cosmetic Editor for Oral Health Journal.