Sheri's Solutions: Emergencies on a snow day

2013 08 14 15 37 19 36 Doniger Sheri 2013 200

"What happens when you have an emergency and the office is closed because of a snowstorm?"

For the safety of our team, there are days when we are not able to open the office. I have been reading Facebook posts from colleagues from the heartland through the East Coast, announcing their practices are closed for the day, due to inclement weather, or this crazy never-ending series of snow events that has plagued the winter of 2014.

Sheri B. Doniger, DDS.Sheri B. Doniger, DDS.
Sheri B. Doniger, DDS.

When there are days like the one we are had last week, 8-plus inches of snow, two-hour commute from one side of the city to another (my husband may still be driving to work), you have no choice but to cancel the day. For the safety of the patients and your team, it isn't worth heading out. The last thing you need is a lawsuit from a patient or a team member slipping either on the way or walking into the office. No elective dental procedure is that important.

Dental emergencies are a different story. After the obligatory two-plus hours of shoveling and snowblowing, I left the house to go to my office, which is less than a mile away. The main streets were in better shape than the highway, although the side streets were barely plowed.

Fortified with my large cup of decaf coffee, I was prepared for a day of organization and paperwork. As my assistant lives in Chicago, side streets are the last to be plowed. She was unable to attempt the drive to the office. We had canceled the patients the night before, after hearing the potential snow totals. As I was preparing for the next patient day, we received a phone call from a patient who needed a crown recemented. She had tried other dentists and some were not in their offices today. Since I was already in the office, I examined the tooth, recemented it, and sent the patient on her way.

Some dentists don't like to work alone, but for one patient, I was not going to ask my assistant to brave the streets to come in for an appointment I was capable of handling it by myself. It is prudent for a practitioner to know where the assistant places materials. Office protocol will dictate which products we use and in what steps, but where they are located in the office may be a different story.

Offices are strategically organized and, sometimes with a change in team members, procedural armamentarium may be moved. Additionally, it is wise for practitioners to know the instructions for each product in the rare occasion they need to use them on their own.

In reality, the office is never closed. When we are out of town, we have coverage for our patients. We can't abandon patients in the middle of treatment or in case they have an emergency. It is always nice to have a network of other dentists who will lend a hand, as we did with the woman who needed her crown recemented.

We didn't receive another call that day, and no calls to cancel for the next patient day, even though the temperatures promised not to leave the single digits. I think people in Chicago just get used to this weather. Apparently, we are on our seventh named winter storm in Chicago this year. We have now achieved the seventh snowiest winter season in the history of Chicago keeping records.

So, another snow storm this weekend? Hopefully, it will arrive after my patient day is completed. After all, it is just another day in the Windy Snowy City and more fodder for patient chat during their appointments.

Sheri B. Doniger, DDS, practices clinical dentistry in Lincolnwood, IL. She is currently vice president and president-elect of the American Association of Women Dentists and editor of the American Association of Women Dentists "Chronicle" newsletter. She has served as an educator in several dental and dental hygiene programs, has been a consultant for a major dental benefits company, and has written for several dental publications. You can reach her at [email protected].

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