Starting an orthodontic practice 31 years ago as a fresh dental school graduate, to say the least, was scary. Over the years, as with any business, there were challenges. But nothing could prepare me for what happened in March 2020!
One of the first realities I had to face was being considered “non-essential”! Talk about a blow to the ego! The “non-essential” designation, however, meant more than a bruised ego. It meant we had to shut our doors and cancel patient appointments.
At first, we believed the shutdown would last two weeks. We also believed the staff could work in the office, just without patients. My team and I created lists of things we could do over the next two weeks – things that always got pushed to the bottom when we were operational. Everyone was excited to get to work!
This excitement was short-lived as we quickly learned about a “stay at home” order which meant we could not work in the office together. As time went on, two weeks turned into two months of not being able to see our patients.
But a pandemic doesn’t stop teeth from moving. Doesn’t stop parents and patients from having questions and concerns. Doesn’t stop bills from needing to be paid. Doesn’t stop inventory from needing to be ordered – especially given new PPE requirements. We had to learn, and learn quickly, how to utilize technology to keep things moving even though we were “stopped”.
During this time, I learned what an amazing team I have. The staff reviewed electronic charts searching for patients with active wires needing to be checked at least by phone. Hours were spent searching and ordering necessary PPE so that when we were given the “green light” we could safely see our patients.
Eventually that “green light” came. From the moment we heard we could re-open, amazing things happened.
Though we were in the midst of a global pandemic, in a profession where we work inches from people’s unmasked faces, my team came to work everyday to serve the orthodontic needs of our tri-county area. Whatever was asked or mandated they did. Wearing suffocating layers of PPE. Constantly escorting patients to and from the office in heat and wind and rain. Adapting to new procedures and scheduling restraints. Working longer days to catch up on patients who needed to be seen. Eating alone at lunch. Through it all this team kept our patients, their families, and their co-worker’s safety and health a priority. The pandemic brought out so many heroes in our world and I am proud to say my team is among them.