Protecting your health and wellbeing during the pandemic
Sarah Ide discusses the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the mental health of dental professionals and how the DDU can support you at this time.
Dental professionals, including those in the early stages of their career, frequently face high-pressure situations especially when dealing with worried or anxious patients.
The circumstances of the coronavirus pandemic present numerous challenges that may magnify these pressures.
The demands of increased vigilance in keeping up-to-date with current guidance and adaptation to new ways of working in combination with limited patient contact and the reduced availability of face-to-face or hands-on dental education have compounded daily pressures.
At the DDU, we have applied our years of experience supporting dental professionals through a range of dentolegal situations in developing an e-learning course focusing on health and wellbeing. The aim of the course is to help dental professionals recognise the warning signs of anxiety, depression and burnout. As well as develop strategies for coping with adversity and supporting colleagues in the circumstances.
Advice when seeking help
Our advice to colleagues who may experience difficulties is to seek help at the earliest opportunity. This may come from trusted family members or friends. Or one of the many sources of professional advice and help available including:
- The DDU’s 24-hour health and wellbeing helpline. As well as our health and wellbeing e-learning course
- Looking after you too, which offers support with psychological wellbeing to primary care staff including dentists
- NHS Practitioner Health Programme (PHP). This service is available via self-referral for dentists on the register in England and includes additional support during the coronavirus pandemic
- The Dentist’s Health Support Programme (DHSP) is a charity run by dentists to support colleagues
- Confidental helpline offers emotional first aid for dentists in distress
- If you’re concerned about your performance, you could consider seeking help from the Practitioner Advice and Support Scheme (PASS). Practitioners can approach for free along with confidential support via the Local Dental Committee (LDC).
Many dental professionals may feel increasingly stressed and anxious. Younger colleagues might find it difficult to navigate these emotions while trying to continue their professional development and establish their career pathway.
The impact on mental health
At the DDU, we have seen the profound impact the coronavirus pandemic has on individuals’ mental health across all disciplines and at all levels within the dental profession.
A recent survey of 224 DDU members found that 68% of respondents believed their stress and anxiety levels have increased since the pandemic. With 35% saying they were significantly worse.
The survey also looked more generally at the mental wellbeing of dental professionals. It was encouraging that 72% of respondents feel they are making a positive difference. And 67% believe they have a good work/life balance.
Another positive is that 82% feel they can count on the support of their colleagues. This reflects the caring and empathetic qualities of the majority of dental professionals.
Most respondents (60%) would be very or reasonably confident in raising a health or wellbeing issue. Although 88% are most likely to raise these difficulties with their family members or colleagues (57%), rather than their general practitioner (42%).
Less encouraging is the levels of concern about emotional health.
Worryingly, 67% of respondents are stressed or anxious on a weekly basis. And 47% are often going into work when they aren’t well. Almost half, 49%, feel they are unable to do their jobs effectively and 52% feel they are unable to spend enough time with patients.
Mental health and wellbeing is a complex issue. However, the pressures of the pandemic may act as a catalyst. This may then catch up with more dental professionals in the months and years ahead.
The impact of the pandemic is likely to be prolonged. Remember you are not alone and your dental defence organisation is here to support and advise you.
To learn more about the DDU’s health and wellbeing e-learning course, visit bit.ly/3sQuwOy.