As dentists, we dedicate ourselves to our profession, always maintaining high standards as we serve others and our profession. In our practices, we are the major producer of the dental services. In addition, we also are tasked with managing our businesses and leading our teams. Essentially, we wear three hats. Often, doing the dentistry, or wearing the “producer hat,” has been our first priority. Now, in the midst of the pandemic, I believe that the most important “hat” we need to wear is the “leadership hat.” Let me explain why.
When Covid hit last March, dental offices were asked to shut down and only see emergency patients. The shutdown varied according to which state you lived in. For some, it lasted 8 weeks, for others, it lasted a few months. During that time, we were bombarded with news alerts and information from the ADA, the CDC, and the WHO regarding Covid. Often, that information changed by the hour. Because of Covid, many of our existing protocols had to be changed, patient screenings now had to be done, and things like air filtration systems and PPE had to be purchased. Our expenses skyrocketed while our income plummeted. In addition, many of our patients had lost their jobs, and many, including our team members, had to juggle their work schedules or couldn’t return to work because their children were now at home doing “remote schooling.” In addition to all this, many dentists had a difficult time hiring new staff members due to a constricted applicant pool. Despite feeling overwhelmed and emotionally exhausted, we needed to press on. Is it possible to do this and still experience some semblance of positivity and joy? I believe the answer is “yes.” Here are a few things I’ve done and you can do, too, to stay positive and productive in the midst of this pandemic.
First, focus daily on what’s in front of you. According to Dale Carnegie, “living in day tight compartments” is the “best way to chase away the blues.” And as you choose to live “one day at a time,” you will want to stay current with the latest information regarding Covid, remembering that “knowledge is power.” As you lead your team and your patients, ask yourself, “What is the best decision I can make with what’s in front of me today?” In addition to obtaining the most current information, it’s important to truthfully share what you know with your patients and team. Keeping everyone informed and connected with the latest information is a great way to foster a feeling of well-being, a “we’re all in this together” attitude.
As you care for your team, make sure to check-in with them more frequently than usual. As you do that, be a good listener and observe their body language and words to assess how they are doing mentally. In my opinion, having daily morning huddles and weekly team meetings are essential to keeping you and your team well connected. Remember, this pandemic is like a violent storm, tossing everyone around, filling them with fear, wondering if their ship is going to sink. Your job, as the leader of your practice, is to be their lighthouse, their guiding light, encouraging them daily. Be empathetic, listen to them more than ever, and reassure them that like the H1N1 pandemic of 1918 or the H2N2 virus of 1957, one day, this pandemic will end, and that together, not only will you survive, you will thrive as you look forward to better days ahead.
As I thought about the activities I do to help me stay positive, I came up with 30 items like: always be grateful, always say thank you, eat well, get exercise, collaborate with colleagues, read inspirational works, and pray. I encourage each of you to come up with your own list of positive activities. Also, try to limit the amount of news you read or watch on the television! You want to keep “negative stuff” out of your brain.
They say that something good always comes out of something bad. As I reflect on how the pandemic has positively changed my life, the biggest thing it has changed is my perception of life. It’s helped me see what’s most important and appreciate the “gifts” I’ve been given.
My priorities and my perceptions have changed for the better, helping me to enjoy each and every day regardless of the circumstances that come my way. I am an avid hiker and, in the past, I’ve often referred to myself as a “goal-oriented hiker,” taking few breaks, and rarely stopping to take pictures. Since Covid, I now stop and take pictures of the beautiful vistas. I now stop for a few minutes and listen to the silence or take a deep breath of the beautiful fragrance of the balsam trees. Honestly, I enjoy my hikes more than I ever have in the past. This positive change has not just helped me in my physical world; it’s also helped me relationally, with my family and with the people I encounter at the grocery store, for example. I’m finding that since the pandemic and my “new perception of life,” I am more understanding and have more patience with others. I’m less reactive to unkind words or bad behavior; I find that I am more loving and care more about the needs of others. I call these my “Covid blessings.”
Remember, you are the leader of your practice and your people need you. Remember, that in order to lead your patients and your team members well, you’ll need to take care of yourself. Fuel yourself both physically and spiritually to keep your light shining brightly. And lastly, remember that “beauty will rise from the ashes” and in due time, like the pandemics of the past, this one will come to an end. And one last bit of advice…If at the end of your day you need to relax, unwind, and watch TV… I recommend that you watch Animal Planet. I wish you all the very best.