Right now as I write this (March 19th, 1:36 pm) there are 236,732 reported cases of the COVID-19 Coronavirus, and over ten thousand people have already lost their lives to the outbreak worldwide.
The American Dental Association has asked practices to close their doors to all but emergency cases for the next three weeks. I’ve seen practices all across the country shutting their doors completely to “wait this out.”
I cannot plead with you enough... now more than ever, your patients need you.
To Comfort Always
"My brother had a rapidly progressive type of tuberculosis and my time was soon entirely taken up in caring for his needs."
A story that has recently impacted me was that of Edward Livingston Trudeau, and his constant battle against tuberculosis in his own life and those he cared about. At the age of 17, Trudeau learned his older brother had developed a serious case of tuberculosis. Without any other family around to care for him, or medical personnel to treat him, the responsibility fell on young Edward. He writes about his experience in his autobiography, To Comfort Always.
"We occupied the same room and sometimes the same bed. I bathed him and brought his meals to him, and when he felt well enough to go downstairs I carried him up and down on my back, and tried to amuse and cheer him through the long days of fever and sickness."
"This was my first introduction to tuberculosis and to death… little I knew then how many hundreds of such deathbed scenes I should attend in years to come, in a life which has been spent in the midst of a perpetual epidemic of tuberculosis."
Trudeau would go on to become a pioneer in public health, but before ever attending medical school he was already filling the role of a practitioner. To Trudeau, his role of a practitioner was a lifelong calling, and so is yours.
You have made a commitment to the wellbeing of your patients, and this is an opportunity to put it into action.
Comfort Looks Different
For the next three weeks, while you comply with ADA requests, the way you offer care changes.
The ADA has already requested that you remain open for emergency cases, so the hospitals are not overwhelmed with these patients. This is your primary role during this time. I want to talk about two additional ways you can be showing care during this time.
1: Your Presence
It’s time to turn “social distancing” into “physical distancing” because virtual socialization needs to still be happening. The same way we see folks recommending virtual hangouts with friends to combat feelings of loneliness and isolation, the same practice holds true for our practices.
I recently came across this post from Dr. Anamelechi with Children’s Choice Pediatric that offers a virtual storytime for her patients. Dr. A has an amazing relationship with the kids that visit her practice. It’s the type of connection you have to see to believe. They are genuinely excited when they get to see her. She’s offering those kids the same opportunity to still connect with the care provider they love through stories.
I’ve also seen practices making themselves available for virtual consultations with current or potential new patients. The point is the same, you are making yourself available one way or another for the patients that need you.
2: Your Positivity
Many people are feeling downcast and discouraged during this time. We all see the news headlines and stats like the ones I posted at the start of this article. Pair that with less social interaction and time outside, and it’s understandable how people could start slipping into a dark place.
If we fix our eyes too closely on how WE make it through, we neglect lending a hand to helping THEM make it through.
We must turn our attention to the emotional wellbeing of our patients. Messages of hope, positivity and laughter unite us. Share with your community a word of inspiration, a funny meme, or a tip for how you're staying active during this time.
Corey + Then Periodontics & Dental Implants posted this graphic out to their community today, with the caption, “In all the chaos going on around us, the first day of spring serves as a reminder that no season lasts forever!”
"I have had ample opportunity in the past forty years to get used to illness and suffering… to learn to be content with part of a loaf when one cannot have a whole loaf, though a hard lesson to learn... and to his astonishment he often finds that what he considers the half-loaf, when acquiesced in, proves most satisfying."
- Edward Livingston Trudeau
Don't Wait This Out- Reach Out.
This season is not what any of us would have wanted. Some of us are really struggling to make ends meet. But don’t simply wait this out – reach out. Touch the lives of the patients you’ve dedicated your life to, and show them through your presence and positivity that we are truly in this together.