What it’s like back in practice – a few weeks on
Dr Rima Hussain works as an associate dentist at Lewisham Dental Practice, as well as teaching third- and fourth-year students at Guy’s Hospital. She looks back over the past few weeks to share her experience of returning to work after COVID-19. She says:
“Before I went back, I spoke to a lot of colleagues that shared my concerns about what life would be like in practice post-pandemic. I was worried that I would have to work without all the appropriate PPE – which can be expensive and potentially in low supply. I was concerned that I might contract COVID-19 and/or pass it onto my patients. The possibility that this could lead to litigation if a patient’s diagnosis was traced back to us was a major concern.
“I was also apprehensive about whether my team would be able to provide the care our patients needed. We are located in a high-needs area, so the lack of access to dental treatment for several months was likely to have created lots of problems among our patient-base.
“Thankfully, the reality of returning to practice was not as bad as I had anticipated. My bosses were very good at sourcing all the necessary PPE and I’ve been very happy with what we’re using to protect ourselves. Unfortunately, we were right about our patients needing a lot of treatment – we continue to work flat out to provide the care both our existing patients and new attendees need.”
Discussing the key changes she has experienced, Rima continues:
“Perhaps the most obvious difference is the number of patients I see in a day, which has drastically reduced. What used to be a 20-30 minute filling now takes 1-1.5 hours, with most of the time spent donning PPE and cleaning the surgery. We have refined the process to make the very most of the fallow time. Given the high-needs of our patients and the size of our practice (7 surgeries), we provide two full days of AGPs by one or two dentists each week. On these days, I might only see 1-6 patients and that’s the diary fully-booked.”
Rima reflects on the experience as a whole:
“Looking back, I think a lot of my anxiety during lockdown was about whether my patients were in pain and if they would complain about treatment I had started but not been able to complete. Actually, they were very understanding and I was pleased to find that the vast majority were not in any discomfort despite postponing appointments.
“For now, I think it’s important for professionals to keep sharing ideas to improve their workflows or the patient experience. As we become more familiar with the new protocols, we should be tweaking and refining them. They are here to stay for the time-being, so they should be as efficient as possible.”