SARS-CoV-2 hit our profession in myriad ways. Many of our practices shut down or limited themselves to emergency services. During our dental hiatus, we took hours of continuing education, prepared our offices with engineering changes, and maneuvered through various loan and grant applications to help our practices survive.
Dr. Sheri Doniger.
We also had personal stories. Practices had to furlough employees, some forever, as well as answer questions from family, friends, and patients about the future of our offices. We also experienced losses -- in production with patient retention due to (unfounded) fears of dental office safety and in employment with concomitant loss of any dental benefit. Not to mention the family members and friends who have succumbed to the virus or have long-term health issues.
Some industry experts say we should have a plateau of production for the first quarter. However, with COVID-19 case numbers currently increasing at exponential rates around the U.S., we may be looking at another slowdown in certain regions of the country. Patients may be fearful again of the safety of our offices.
In looking back at 2020, we have many things to be grateful for and many people who have helped us in our journey to the end of this crazy year. Next to our personal support system of family and friends, our team members have been most important this year. They helped us implement new protocols and create a safer environment for our patients. Personally, I would not have been able to make it through this year without my team's dedication to our patients and our practice's safety. I am grateful for their ability to pivot with changing protocols and accept the ever-changing landscape of our new normal. I am also grateful for their humor and willingness to accept the novel nature of this whole pandemic.
All of our practices have heroes who helped us weather this COVID-19 storm. Our office managers have worked to fill our schedule while also having the initial conversation with patients about the level of safety and the importance of continuing dental care for their oral and general health. Our assistants have been implementing enhanced cleaning techniques. They most likely are the designated logistics and chief purchasing officer for the office, coordinating the balance of our current and future needs with the limitations of available products. Our hygienists changed their normal routines from using aerosol-generating ultrasonics, piezo scalers, and air polishers to "old school" hand instrumentation and polishing, all the while with a high-volume evacuator in their other hand. And the practice owners and associate dentists, well, we have all pivoted in one way or another -- but we are all still here to talk about it.
Consider gifting a humorous memento from 2020, such as an ornament. Image courtesy of Dr. Sheri Doniger.
Even though this has been a tough year, we should consider some special gifts for our team members. Many offices use the holiday season to distribute bonuses and discuss salary increases for the next year. Some offices are giving a larger bonus due to the increased collections from changes to touch-free protocols and limiting billing. We all appreciate a little extra money at the holidays. During this particular holiday season, when the normal office get-together may be completely impossible, moving toward local restaurant gift certificates and a bottle of wine or other certificates may be a good idea. It will help your team member to a great meal and benefit another small business during this time of decreased capacity.
Another option would be a certificate to streaming service. Although many of our team members may participate in one or more of these programs, they would appreciate a gift card toward their own streaming service.
On a humorous note, consider gifting some memento from this crazy year, such as an ornament (like the one pictured that I purchased from a local artist) or a t-shirt in addition to a bonus. We all need to see the bright side of everything. We will certainly emerge from this pandemic by this time next year, but something to memorialize the year is valuable, I believe, to show our gratitude that they took this journey with us.
The pandemic is not over, not by any means. With a vaccine on the horizon, we still have a long road ahead to find our new normal. It has been an unusual year for all of us. Although we still have a ways to go, we are truly in this together. As we approach the end of 2020, reflecting on everything that happened (and things that could have happened), we are grateful for our profession and especially our team. It is so important to show our gratitude by gifting a little bigger this year. Reward your team members so they know you appreciate their trust and confidence.
What will 2021 bring? All good things, we hope. Stay safe and have a joyous, peaceful, and healthy holiday season.
Dr. Sheri Doniger practices clinical dentistry in Lincolnwood, IL. Her book, Practical Practice Solutions in Dentistry, is available on amazon.com. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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