Everything Dental Blog – COVID Fatigue

If you are like me, then you have watched way too much cable news during this pandemic. This steady flow of bad news and uncertainty has impacted our lives in more ways than we want to realize. News on demand has created an unquenchable appetitive for regular updates on COVID’S world-wide infection rates, US death tolls, civil unrest, and breaking news stories. 

Working from home and sheltering in place has had a huge impact on me emotionally, professionally, and physically. I feel like I am engaged in an experiment that I did not volunteer for. As I hear about the death rates rise with my morning cup of coffee, the commentators would always remind me that I am among those with high risk. I have an auto immune disease and I am overweight.

Early statistics gave me comfort that my two kids (25 and 29) are safe and not likely to get ill from the virus. Then the business closings and unemployment numbers have soared, and the virus has shown us that its impact is being felt beyond the medical environment. People are being furloughed and dislocated as the epidemic has become a pandemic with no end in sight. 

Like so many other global disasters, the magnitude and reach of this Corona virus has touched everyone. We all know someone who has or has had COVID-19 or we know someone who knows someone that has. It is critical that we all be diligent about wearing masks and practice social distancing to ward off this deadly virus. What an untenable position for us to be in!

Not since I was a kid, during the sixties, has there been so much unrest. There are several geopolitical, cultural, and economic issues affecting the very fabric of American life. Amid this whirlwind of uncertainty, change and disruption we are counting the days before the next, arguably most divisive, Presidential election of our lifetime. 

Over the last five months, I have stayed in touch with several of my old clients. Many have reached out to me for advice or wanted to know how I was doing in my new role. During these conversations, it was common for us to discuss many issues such as the virus’s economic impact, business survival, infection control guidelines, PPE availability, human resources, and staffing challenges. While these popular topics were not unusual subject matter, there was nothing usual about the seriousness of our discussions. The fear of loss. The fear of the unknown. The fear of illness. The fear of not being able to survive can be daunting. 

We can all benefit from surrounding ourselves with positive people. I prefer the fighters and inspirers. These are the people who will be more efficient, more agile, and better equipped when COVID is in our rear-view mirror. These determined business owners have been busy improving office systems and processes. They have incorporated new technology and tele-health to raise the bar on their patient engagement, clinical efficiencies, and their patients experience. These business owners refuse to be victims.

Our lack of control compounded by economic challenges and the public unrest has taken its toll on all of us. If you are like me, you have COVID fatigue. There is this cloud of uncertainty that has infiltrated our very being. Do you feel a little off from your usual self? Maybe, you are a little less enthusiastic or not as optimistic or hopeful as you once were?   

We all know someone who had a monumental event cancelled because of this deadly virus. No graduation, weddings, retirement parties, summer camp, and no vacations. Think about the emotional impact of family members in hospitals, and senior facilities that cannot have guests? Can you imagine the sadness and despair of family members who did not have the opportunity to pay their respect and show their love and affection to family members who have died in nursing homes and hospitals? It is unprecedented and unfathomable that loved ones have passed and we could not memorialize their life with religious services and heartfelt visits to the mourning family members. 

Please consider this…

Prior to COVID-19, many patients were afraid or had anxiety about going to the dentist. Most of this fear was related to pain, injections, anesthetic side effects (the numbing of their face and gums and lips) and finances. And many other patients avoid the dentist because they have control issues or inhibitions about their breath and smile. 

Would you agree that the pandemic has only exacerbated the fear and anxiety of our reluctant patients?  Are our complying patients reluctant to schedule or are they delaying treatment because they have concerns? 

If you want to capture your business and grow it beyond what it was pre-COVID, then you must create a safe and comforting environment for your patients. Be sure to communicate with your patients through text, email, snail mail and social media regularly. Let them know you have taken extra precautions and have made investments in your facility to create a welcoming and safe environment for them. 

Everyone is different. Every practice owner will have a different take on the virus and its impact. Dentists, like the public have varying views and perspectives regarding the virus and its severity. Let us not confuse, our right to have a perspective with what’s right for our business. Whether you are a COVID naysayer or a COVID alarmist, creating a positive and welcoming office environment is good for your business. The goal is recovery. It is all about the patient and providing a safe and pleasant experience for them. 

Over the next few months, as we transition to Fall and Winter, many scientists and researchers are concerned that Covid-19 and Influenza may cause havoc on our healthcare system. This would only add confusion and worry for everyone. 

Now more than ever, we have the burden, responsibility, and opportunity to bring calm to the chaos. To explain the complex in simple terms. We must help our patients and the public understand how dental practices have modified their facilities and schedules to ensure a safe and caring environment. 

Dentistry has been at the forefront of infection control since the early nineties. We have worn a fresh pair of gloves and a new mask for every patient for over three decades. We clean each surface with professional grade disinfectants between each appointment. We mandate continuing education hours on infection control for all our providers. This year, the dental community enhanced its asepsis activity with greater focus on aerosol spray. Many facilities have invested in Hepa filters and adjunctive air purification and vacuum equipment to improve the air quality in every treatment room and the entire facility.

Let us keep up the good work and rely on our better instincts to restart our economy. Dentists are essential and good dentistry is vital to our overall health. 

I wish you all safety and good health.