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  • Writer's pictureKarl Walker-Finch

6 lessons on going back to work

We reopened our practice on Monday 8th June and so we’re currently in week three of returning to work.

About a third of dental practices started seeing patients again at the same time as us, many have started since then and many more are yet to see any patients for a plethora of reasons.

We are all starting new jobs, it’s certainly not the same as it used to be, there are a lot of new skills to learn and I wanted to share with you a few things that have helped me enjoy my first few weeks back.

All the rules on this list are applicable inside and outside of dentistry. Substitute the word “patients” for “clients”, “service users” or “colleagues” as applicable.

1. Start slow

We’ve had three months off, build up your pace gradually, you can’t dive straight back in to how things used to be. Wearing all the extra gear can be hard going so take your time and don’t try to squeeze too many people in. Patients understand the difficulty of the situation, in fact, many patients still don’t want to come in. When you have a system in place that’s working, you can start to turn the screw but start slowly. This has been said so many times lately that it’s lost most of it’s meaning but it’s a marathon, not a sprint.

2. Talk

Everyone has missed having adult conversations with people outside of their immediate family. This is great, I feel I’ve made a genuinely deeper connection with all my patients so far and because we’ve started slowly I have had much more time to develop rapport with my patients. This has in turn lead to a more positive experience for patients and me.

3. A lot of people are looking for a new dentist

That may be someone who’s not visited a dentist in years wanting to start again, or maybe they have unhappy for a while with the current level of care and they’ve taken this opportunity to start again.

Most people have had a lot more time to think during lockdown. Many people are using this opportunity to hit the reset switch on their their lives and a big part of this is getting the confidence back in their smiles. A lot of practices are understandably worried about the flow of finances and understandably so, I believe that we may be entering a time where we have an influx of new patients.

4. Video calls are great

They allow you to immediately build rapport with new patients and keep in touch with existing ones. If you can’t do video then a phone call is good. There’s no substitute for face-to-face interaction, but making eye contact digitally is better than none at all. For those who are interested, I’ve been using, Zoom and Loom.

5. Review and reflect regularly

The technicalities of what will work in every individual practice is going to vary widely so we need to keep reviewing what is working in our own clinics regularly.

Many of the ideas we thought would help us during this time have not worked. Walkie-Talkies to minimise face to face contact with each other and facilitate communication sounded like a great idea but it was a bit of farce.

A doorbell system to notify the buddy nurse of completion of an AGP to escort the patient out the practice is working far more effectively and looks more professional than shouting “Angie, we’re done. Angie? Angie! Oh there you are.”

6. Support each other

Everyone has just started a new job again, even those people who are returning to do something very similar to before are rusty and need to relearn their trade. There are a lot of anxieties flying round at the minute, maybe you’re not feeling them, maybe you yourself are feeling overwhelmed. It is vital, that regardless of whether you are a CEO, principal dentist, dental nurse, front of house, a cleaner, we must look out for each other right now.

If you feel you’re coping well right now, make sure you support those around you. Listen and be empathic.

If you’re not coping, talk to someone.

We are all in this situation together, we’ve all been through it together, and the only way out of this, is together.

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