It’s 11:07 a.m. on Thursday, March 19, and I’m at home trying to conjure my thoughts and write something that will have an impact on you, my fellow colleagues, as we wade in the unknown waters of what came and broadsided us so quickly. Yes, I’m talking about COVID-19.
If I had to summarize this last week, I would call it a really, really shitty fast-action movie played in super-slow motion that feels like it will never end. Well, I have news for you. It will end, and it will all turn out to be OK.
When we go from having a fairly normal week to essentially having to close our doors, the mere concept behind it all is still hard to believe. I truly don’t think any of us had a clear idea as to the extent of changes that would have to take place.
Friday the 13th (ha ha … funny, I know) saw our interest pique in the news. My phone started to ring and beep more as my family and staff looked to me for advice and direction. My intent with any advice I gave or questions I answered was to reassure them. I dug my feet in because it was becoming apparent that the foundation for our status quo was being threatened. Worry, panic, and a lack of pragmaticism were starting to override everything.
As events unfolded over the next couple days, I went to work last Monday knowing I would need to make some major decisions. I am a small-business owner who has the responsibility of 10 people on my shoulders. I could tell at our staff meeting that they were worried and needed reassurance that they wouldn’t fall. Thoughts were circulating: Would I still have a job? What would happen to the practice? Without doubt, this was a common theme everywhere—in every profession and workplace.
As doctors, we are automatically placed in a leadership position; as small-business owners, we bear even more responsibility. With that said, we have to be willing to take the hit, but also be ready to hit back twice as hard. We have so much opportunity in front of us to set the stage for a lot of good to happen.
Tough decisions need to be made, but what makes it so challenging is the fact that many pieces of the changing puzzle have to be considered—our response to the directives, recommendations, and requirements to stay open or close, do this or that, prepare for this or that. I would see a patient, and within the hour, things would change. I knew it was just a matter of time when I would make the call to close my office doors. Like it or not, it was what I needed to do to protect myself, staff, patients, and business.
During this time, one saying came to mind: Adversity does not build character, it reveals it. Panic, fear, and overwhelming thoughts of doom and gloom seem to be flooding the minds of many, but it doesn’t do a bit of good to feed into that frenzy.
As I geared up my office for closure these next two weeks, I’ve found that older generations are a source of incredible comfort and guidance. This isn’t their first rodeo with life-changing experiences. I have also found that as everyone around me processes what is happening, there is still much to smile and laugh about. For example, toward the end of the day, one of my patients came in with a complaint that he wanted me to fix his front tooth so he could “say the f-word better.” I couldn’t stop laughing! After sharing that story with my staff and few others, laughter indeed proved to be the best medicine.
Dentistry isn’t going anywhere, my friends. The nature of what we do in the field of medicine assures us that our skills and demand for services will never cease to exist. What will change perhaps is how we approach our business, how we can better serve our patients’ needs, and how creative we can be with the curveball that’s been thrown at us.
There is a twisted sort of comfort knowing that we all are essentially in the same boat. If we all panic, it’s going to sink—no doubt about it. If, however, we remain calm and show our true leadership colors, we can continue to navigate these murky waters … and even find the silver lining in the mayhem and changes that exist now and that we will see in the coming days.
We need to take this time to push our reset button—professionally and personally. Take on those projects at your office that have been on the back burner. There is no time like the present.
Next week, I will be operating with a skeleton crew to accept patients with emergency dental needs. I have also reached out to my colleagues to offer a hand if needed and the hospital to let them know I’m available for any dental patients who come their way. In all interactions, I will try to inject a note of positivity to the best of my ability.
I was the last one to leave my office today. As I walked through, I took a picture of one of my empty dental chairs. The interpretation of such an image is wide open, but I prefer to look at it in a positive light. Life as I know it is changing, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to fold. You shouldn’t either. We need to band together within the profession and our respective communities to be the leaders our profession can be proud of. We’re all in this together, and we need to embrace the ride.
Cheers, with continued support to you all