What the pandemic taught me as a practice manager
Practice manager Gurjit Sonsoy reveals the top tips and lessons that her practice took from the pandemic.
I’ve worked in dentistry for the last 15 years. I’ve always been passionate about dental health care especially oral health care and wellbeing. As clinical lead and practice manager, I work very closely with the principal to provide the best possible dental care we can at our practice.
As you can imagine it has been very challenging throughout this COVID-19 pandemic and managing a practice and its team.
With changes from the BDA and government guidelines for dentistry, we have had to adapt very quickly as a practice. We have had to all pull together as a team and been able to provide the highest standard of treatment without compromising our high standards.
As a practice, communication plays a vital role to let our patients know that we were always a phone call away if they had any dental concerns. We quickly adapted to take our operating systems to work out of hours when the practice had to shut because of lockdown. This has now become part of a normal service we offer.
The biggest changes we have made at a practice is to increase longer working hours and flexibility where patients are able to come to the practice later in the day. Also, telephone consultations have increased enormously.
My dental team also had to adapt at very short notice. They have had to relearn how they viewed cross infection and manage the increased PPE they are now required to wear. It was definitely a challenge but we have managed to integrate it into our normal dental working life. Now, this has become the new ‘normal’.
On reflection it’s amazing how far our practice has come since March 2020 and how our team has adapted to the new normal of working. As a team, we are managing to follow all protocols, including social distancing.
We are enormously grateful for our patients’ understanding and being exceptionally patient with us while we make changes along the way to keep everyone safe.
Here are some tips and new lessons learnt throughout this pandemic:
1. Updates in technology
It has allowed us to update our technology system. We have adapted to doing more Zoom and telephone consultations where possible to minimise contact.
This definitely proved to work well but we still use our old fashioned letter service as many elderly patients do not have the technology available to them. I think it’s important to offer all types of communication.
2. Demand for service
We realise there is a demand for our dental services out of hours and remotely. We have adapted our business operations to accommodate patient needs by having an out-of-hours service that is still available via telephone and email.
3. Improved team working
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought the practice together. We are working even more closely as a team to provide the best service. The team are learning to share the workload between myself and the reception team. We carry out regular checks throughout the day and discuss any issues on the day that need to be dealt with.
This has definitely been a positive move, which has translated into better reception triaging and communication on the phone.
4. Social media communication
Social media platforms have become very useful during this pandemic. We are beginning to use more social media and establish our presence and platform. This is to communicate with patients and reduce their isolation and the anxiety of not being able to get to their appointments.
It’s useful to relay information, protocols and resources really quickly. It’s very useful for patients to contact us and keep in touch with us. Of course, we also use it for fun things as well.
5. Mental health
As a practice manager I can see the pandemic has affected all staff members differently. The uncertainty and also the changing work can be quite stressful for staff.
I really believe that we must have an open dialogue with all staff members and allow them to voice their concerns.
Being classed as key workers now, it can definitely have a psychological impact on staff. I know they worry about their health and wellbeing too and also going back to their own families. I encourage my staff to talk about anything that is concerning them.
We also have protocols in place now that allows staff to refer to counselling services for health and wellbeing.
The pandemic is definitely not over – we envisage working like this for a long time to come. We, as a practice, have managed to keep up with patient dental needs and adapt quite quickly to the new routine.
During this awful time we still continue to support all our patient and staff needs to provide the best service we can with this ever-changing environment.
Gurjit Sonsoy is the practice manager at St John’s Dental Practice. She started there as a trainee dental nurse before moving to head nurse, marketing and lastly practice managing.
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