Dentists must discover their own pace when adjusting to the new normal


Shaz Memon explains how staying digitally active as practices start reopening will help keep you up to date and support your patients too.

In a rapidly changing environment, we are often torn between taking immediate action or waiting to offer a more considered response.

Confronted with a threat, dilemma or challenge, we can feel conflicted. What path will prove the most effective? When should we embark upon it? And, how will our choice make a positive difference in the long term?

Last week, Canadian president Justin Trudeau took a full 20 seconds to respond to a press question about Donald Trump’s threat to use the military in response to protests over the police killing of George Floyd.

The silence, albeit brief, felt significant, as he gathered his thoughts to reply in a measured way. Whilst he might have had in the past his own steep learning curve regarding racism, he was correct in his observation that now is the ‘time to pull people together’.

Working together

A significant event can also require immediate action. In the case of George Floyd, we needed to stand up and be counted. Listen, learn and respond with speed to raise our collective voice and make it heard. The tragedy demanded instant global condemnation.

However, the difficulty we often face in times of adversity is adjusting the speed at which we process and/or act. We need to understand the intricacies before we react appropriately. We therefore must ask key questions whilst remaining aware that each scenario comes with its own challenges and complexities.

Arguably, this process of pacing ourselves in response to change applies on a wider scale, too.

If the coronavirus pandemic has taught us anything at all, it is the importance of working together. Sharing best practice and knowledge, having patience whilst planning, watching and waiting. Gathering evidence before making our own interpretation and acting accordingly.

Reopening of dental practices

Dentistry is facing change of epic proportion – arguably, not seen within most of our lifetimes. And, as we all enter this period of a ‘new normal’, we need the headspace to adapt and the right environment in which to work.

Ultimately, your pace is your own. As England’s dentists got the green light to return to work – the profession reacted in a multitude of ways.

Last week (5 June), a BDA poll revealed that just over a third of dental practices will open on Monday 8 June. The remaining respondents citing PPE shortages and access to fit testing as key barriers to a return. In essence, they are unable to prepare their practice to the level required.

We should never feel pressure to act if unprepared. As an industry, dentistry has always had its early adopters – every profession needs trailblazers. But in a heightened risk-averse environment, it is essential that teams develop protocols at their own pace and deliver care only when they are ready.

Confusion and chaos never make great bed fellows. Clarity is key in dentistry and communications are an important element in this ‘return to practice’ preparation.

The digital age

Social media has played host to many discussions about the developments of dental care delivery. One wonders how these communications would have taken place had COVID-19 hit us before the existence of the worldwide web.

The digital age has certainly come into its own in these past few months. It’s facilitating not only the sharing of information, but offering a platform for petitions, public awareness raising, professional debate and educational opportunities, too.

Locked down and socially distanced, many dental professionals have turned to their laptops and smartphones to learn, engage and even protest. It also allowed us to fulfil the need for that face-to-face contact missing in our real lives. It offered 24/7 access to the changing status quo in dentistry.

The internet gives us the opportunity to access news fast. But lockdown also afforded us the time to browse, read further, reflect and develop a deeper understanding.

In effect, digital communication eased lockdown life for all of us. Creative and collaborative, it became the focus for much of the profession as COVID-19 impacted the industry. Indeed, it afforded me the opportunity to give something back to the profession in which my business thrives.

Through the lockdown, we ran a series of live and on-demand webinars specially designed to help dental practices ride this wave. I am grateful for those who offered their services to help practices find their own way forward.

For those who still have the time and capacity to learn, you can catch up with a programme of marketing and personal development webinars here

Remaining digitally active

As we enter the next phase of this new world, we will all have to adapt to survive. Indeed, the world needs to change in many ways now our eyes have been opened.

This may require self-education, difficult conversations, group reflection as well as a highly considered plan of action in order that we may move forward.

As dentistry begins its rebirth, we need to pace ourselves in our response – and remember that we are all unique. Businesses will evolve at their own speed. However, by continuing to embrace remote learning and education, by remaining digitally active and being mindful of what you are sharing in your posts, you can create a positive and welcoming environment in this new era – both within your practice as well as online.

We need to be confident that we are well equipped to help those who need support during these continued times of uncertainty – and this inevitably applies to patients, too.

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