26 Mar 2020  •  Blog, Covid-19, Dental Landscape  •  6min read By  • Simon Thackeray

A day in the life of a dentist during COVID-19 – Day 1

It seems like I’m in a surreal Christmas/disaster movie, all the days have started to merge into one. I’ve been asked to write a bit of a blog/diary about what is happening in my life at the moment.

For those who don’t know me, I’m a wet-fingered dentist who usually works three days a week clinically, and then the other two trying to avoid doing anything constructive at all. I went private in 2005 and have been with Practice Plan ever since.

When all this Covid-19 stuff kicked off in dentistry what seems like an eternity ago (but was in fact only about 12 days ago) I was in the same boat as everyone else out there. Watching the news, listening to colleagues and patients saying it wouldn’t be that bad, etc… How things have changed in a fortnight.

Roll on this last weekend and it became apparent that I was going to have to close down my practice to a skeleton service to provide emergency treatment and advice. That was Monday’s job, and was quite honestly the hardest day of my life professionally. We have a rota arranged internally with four staff and four dentists, so since Monday evening I have been at home. My team have been immense, amazing, and any other superlatives you can think of.

Probably like many of you, I seem to go from the depths of despair, to enthusiastic hope, to tentative optimism, back to crashing uncertainty, utter confusion, and random outbreaks of holding my head in my hands. I tend to work better if I plan what I’m going to do, and even though I am the world’s greatest procrastinator, I get up with the intention of working to the plan set out in my head.

In reality, I’m writing this at 6.00 pm having not achieved any of the things I’ve set out to do today at all apart from one.

So I thought I’d diary today with what I’ve done…

It started with the only planned thing on the list that got done, and that was a webinar with Les Jones, the Creative Director at Practice Plan. It was great to catch up, and at that point my general mood was pretty good.

The plan for the rest of the day then was to formalise my cash flow planning on a proper spreadsheet, rather than the slightly crude ‘fag-packet’ calculations of this weekend. However, before starting this, my 16 year-old son who is more than happy to be missing his GCSE’s (despite still being schooled at home remotely) announced the music software for his assessments still needed to be downloaded.

And there disappeared two hours of cursing, unanswered emails, failed downloads, and basically a crashing return to some form of reality of life.

I then took a call from an old university friend I’ve not seen for a while, and we chatted about what I’ve done to furlough my staff. I then fielded a couple of calls from the team at work who had received their new PPE respirators.

Just a quick look at the emails before starting work then… and there was the latest missive from the CDO about the next phase of dental provision. So, back on the phone to the practice telling them to ready the next phase of preparation for doing telephone and video call triage, arranging full access to the network for the associates manning the phones and testing it, plus update the practice manager that we were likely to go to the next stage of the plan.

This was followed by a call to the one of the team in a company that I work closely with in another capacity as an advisor and consultant to give them my take on the CDO’s announcement and what it might mean in the next couple of days.

The scary thing about this is just the sheer speed with which we are having to adapt to changing situations. Just as we get a skeleton team running, two days later it might change to a different provision again. Time for a quick sandwich (it’s now 3.00 pm) and it dawns on me I’m about to have a ‘head in my hands’ moment just due to the sheer volume of stuff that we are having to think about as healthcare professionals, business owners, and members of a family unit.

At times like this I tend to use guided meditation to just free the mind a bit (my staff call it my afternoon nap!), but taking some of the inner voice out of your head for 30 minutes is something that I try to do daily. It helps if halfway through meditation a very energetic Beagle and a socially inept Labrador don’t decide to rerun the charge of the Light Brigade using the sofa you’re on as the Valley of Death!

I finally get back to the computer to start the stuff I set out to do today at about 4.00pm… and then it dawns on many people that the furlough rule might not apply to practices that have mixed NHS/private, and how then will they survive? This starts another round of emails and whats-app messages to people who might have the answer, not just from my point of view (I have a tiny NHS contract as a sole trader with no employees but my Ltd Co. does the main dentistry) but with different arrangements to my business.

Now I can get down to work, but realise that if we go phone triage, then a more robust flowchart will be needed for any staff involved in triaging calls (both for me and the company I help advise). So back to the Mac to redesign this.

I then realise I haven’t got the fully working version of the spreadsheet I need, so a call to my business coach Kevin, and chat about the sheer randomness of the dental world as we both see it currently.

I can now actually set out to do the work I started to do eight hours ago. I’ve obviously written this as well, but that was just another form of procrastination as I hate spreadsheets and I suspect I’m not going to like the figures it spits out at all.

*Please note the views shared in this blog are Simon’s own.

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