The Covid-19 pandemic has significantly impacted the dental industry. It’s changing the way practices and labs need to operate now and most likely, for the future.
If your practice is one of those that’s been turned upside down, read these tips for reopening your practice from two Danish doctors, Martin Heiden and Simon Kold. They were two of the first dental practices in Denmark to reopen.
While every country has its own guidelines and rules, the two Danish doctors provide excellent insight for professionals anywhere in the world to benefit from.
Here’s 5 tips to think about when you reopen your practice.
Dr. Simon Kold recommends that practices should be cautious with bringing back their staff. His reasoning is based on the uncertainty that still surrounds the pandemic, and how it will eventually unfold.
While the impact of the shutdown is obvious, Dr. Kold believes that “depending on how the coming patient flow we have in our clinic develops, I would say that two to four months down the road is where we will see exactly how the pandemic has affected us.”
According to Dr. Kold, bringing back staff should be carefully evaluated. His strategy has been to bring back two employees at a time. Emphasizing that not more than two per day should return to the office.
When an employee returns, Dr. Kold meets with them before they start up: “We sit down with each employee and have a 30-minute talk. First, on how we will take care of all the new personal protection equipment. We then let them work for a couple of days before adding two more employees. So gradually, we have employees coming back in.”
By bringing back two employees at a time, this minimizes the financial impact on the practice and mitigates contamination concerns.
Denmark has made the staggered reintroduction of employees easier by subsidizing the salaries of employees that were “sent home” during the pandemic.
“For practices that have not opened yet, I would recommend possibly expanding treatment hours. You need to get more patients in. Consider even opening on weekends for a short period. I think it's really about accumulating revenue now in case things get harder down the road.”
With the pandemic, practices have faced many challenges in holding onto staff. Some have had to let employees go, or reduce size, while others, in Denmark for example, have sent colleagues home with supplemented pay from the government.
There are many ways to get your staff back in action, but clear communications are paramount. Practices need to create a concrete document that employees can review and understand what is expected of them in terms of protection gear and sterilization.
Additionally, job uncertainty as well as the inherent challenges in working in a corona-restricted environment can affect staff morale. Doctors Heiden and Kold share some innovative ideas that they have done to improve their respective work places.
Dr. Martin Heiden: “It was quite enjoyable: getting to know your colleagues better and seeing them at home playing with their kids. It's important to keep your employees in good spirits because actually, those who are coming back, they feel appreciated. I think one of the most important things is to keep in close contact with your staff.
Another important addition to our practice and one that helps my staff feel more confident, are splash shields in the operatory. They are quite comfortable to wear, and I can wear them over my loops. I would recommend them.”
Dr. Kold: “We made a video on how to put the gear on and how to take it off again. After seeing the video, employees could go into a changing room and try out the new gear. It’s important to be transparent with your staff.”
In a story posted by the American Dental Association Dr. Jessica Meeske, from the USA, said she created a six page document of reopening protocols for her employees.
Dr. Meeske: “We had an orientation with our staff, which lasted two hours, on the plan to keep patients, parents and the dental team members safe. We invited a local pediatrician and local health department director to be a part of the meetings, review our protocols and answer questions the staff had about COVID-19.”
Again, transparency is key with engaging your staff.
Dr. Kold recommends that practices send out reminders. “It is important that your practice is proactive in contacting patients: send out messages and let them know that you're still there; you're waiting to get started again and we haven't forgotten you. I think we all might see a drop off in patients, so you need to be proactive in re-engaging your patient-relationships.”
Watch the webinar that inspired this article. Get the full story from the dentists that were among the first to open up after the pandemic lock-down.