Do I Stay or Do I Go...

Stay or Go PPE

...into the next office?
I am sitting here, as I have most nights recently, trying to figure out the safest, most efficient, and effective ways to help our sales team have a successful role in the dental world during the COVID-19 pandemic. Our industry has taken quite a hit and have been subject to many changes lately. Many are asking why it has to be so hard, and why are we fearful to return? I am asking why did we ever relax the protocol that was put in place in the 1990’s? Here was my story during a different national healthcare issue:

I was a practicing dental hygienist at the time HIV, AIDS and Hepatitis C were new and not fully understood. It was scary and healthcare workers felt they were at risk. More people were becoming infected and the illness seemed so unpredictable. “Universal precautions”, OSHA and HIPAA became the new language, and CE trainings of choice. Our professional world drastically changed as it affected our professional attire, our freedom, our health and our well-being.

We were required to wear scrubs or lab coats which had to be professionally cleaned, disposable or the office was required to have a washer and dryer on site to launder our scrubs. We were not able to leave the office in our scrubs let alone the shoes we wore in the office. We additionly began wearing a mask with a shield or a mask with protective eyewear. We double gloved at times of known contact, and a single layer of gloves were worn like your own skin. If an HIV, AIDS or Hepatitis C patient scheduled for treatment, it was recommended you only use ultrasonic or piezoelectric scalers to reduce your risk of exposure, since these viruses were transmitted by blood and bodily fluids. We were all nervous, but it is what we did and what we were trained to do.

So what happened? As I sit here listening to stories about numerous offices who are in need of dental hygienists or dental assistants because their previous staff decided not to return to work, I have to wonder how we were so unprepared for this?

Yes, this is a different level and different mode of transmission, but our protocol changes that were instated in the 1990’s should have made this pandemic easier to navigate. Instead, we have healthcare professionals afraid of their profession and patients afraid to get treatment. In actuality, the dental office should be one of the safest places you could visit. Our protocols for disinfecting and sterilizing have never been better, and our desire for a higher level of continuing education has never been stronger. I have a great deal of respect for all healthcare professionals and I pray for their safety and well-being. I also pray we don’t get too comfortable and remain steadfast to life-saving protocol that protects not only us, but our families and loved ones.

So, where does that leave the sales representatives in the dental industry? We send them out equipped with masks, gloves, shields, disposable gowns and anything they need to feel safe doing their job. Is it enough? Will offices let them in? Do offices still find the same value in what and how our sales teams are attempting to help? How are offices viewing our efforts to support them during this pandemic?

As my night comes to a close, my thoughts still wonder how to make the most meaningful and beneficial impact for the dental professional and the patients. It is a new journey into the unknown and we are all doing our best to adjust. My message to all is to be kind, be patient and keep spreading your message. We are all making a difference, even if we can’t see it right now...believe in yourself and your mission.