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During These Trying Times, Sufficient Support Is Essential

covid-mental health-dental-dentists-work environment
covid-mental health-dental-dentists-work environment

Kindness, empathy, and gratitude go a long way in creating a positive work environment that is rewarding for dentists, staff, and patients alike.

The last decade has been one of the most tumultuous in recent memory. The COVID-19 pandemic, upheaval both nationally and abroad, and political polarization at home have profoundly affected all of us. As healthcare providers who care for the public, this has also affected our day-to-day functioning to the greatest extent in recent memory.

The importance of adequate support has never been more crucial. This is support for our patients, our dental team, the greater dental community, and our chosen families across the spectrum. Within our offices, many staff members and doctors have been under increased pressure to balance their many responsibilities at work and at home. Many of our patients are facing the same problems and may bring their personal issues into our offices with them. This creates the potential for negative interactions. Addressing these problematic situations takes patience, kindness, and sometimes a thick skin. It is more difficult to weather these negative interactions without the security of a positive work environment.

As dentists, it is more important than ever that we create a stable and supportive environment within the workplace to ensure that our employees can continue to function happily and effectively. This may entail increased flexibility for administrative staff members to be able to work from home or with more flexible hours. Ensuring that the highest standards of infection control are in place will provide safety and security for both patients and team members. Adequate time for self-care for both doctors and staff is important. Good communication and the provision of mutual support in the office are both crucial. There is no workplace without friction, but it is up to us as healthcare providers and business owners to keep this friction to a minimum — particularly during this very fraught period in history.

Creating community support

There is no need for individual dentists to go it alone. Throughout the pandemic, members of the American Dental Association have been working hard both on a local and national level to provide information and support to member dentists so they can work safely and securely in the face of COVID-19. Our local dental societies provide comraderie, a sense of belonging, and knowledge; this was particularly important during the first stages of the pandemic.

Guidelines and infection levels varied greatly during that period, making the dissemination of guidance for dentists and their teams indispensable. The ADA continues to advocate for dentists in Washington, to ensure that the interests of dentists and their patients are represented in our rapidly changing legislative environment. For many, the advocacy of the ADA is the primary function of organized dentistry, and it is one of the few bulwarks protecting dentists from the varied and frequently contrary interests of the insurance industry, venture capitalists, and student loan lenders, among others. There is strength in numbers, and membership in the American Dental Association has never been as important to protecting and promoting our profession as it is today. Connection with the greater dental community is essential to permit dentists to thrive both professionally and personally.

There are so many negative things happening in the world right now; it is important to keep our perspective. Kindness and empathy are key. It helps to see and express gratitude for the constructive and wonderful things in our lives that may be overshadowed by the tribulations of quotidian existence. Teaching and mentorship are two wonderful ways to give back to the community that supports us. 

It is the responsibility of the dentist to provide a stable and positive work environment. Having support systems in place both at the office and within the greater professional community will help ensure that you can continue to provide safe, high-quality care to those who are most important within our practice — our patients.

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