My dad finished dental school right before wearing gloves in dentistry was mainstream.
“I remember one time eating a piece of toast after work and smelling my last patient’s mouth, even though I washed my hands multiple times,” he told me a few weeks ago. Thankfully, we have adapted to that change. I hope to look back at this time in 30 years and see some humor in how things have changed. What will our kids be appalled to find out we didn’t do before this time? What will we laugh at when we realize how vital we thought something was that proves to be completely pointless?
The processes improve. I spent 7 years building and refining a system and flow in my practice and I found myself worrying it was all going to have to be redesigned. Yet we are getting more used to it. And we are improving the processes. As the routine is settling in the flow is becoming more fluid. It had muddied up some possibly because of the hiatus and disuse, but mostly because of the changes. And I truly hope for more changes yet.
I keep thinking it has to get “better.” Sometimes “better” feels like clarity on safety requirements. Sometimes “better” just seems like easier and more comfortable PPE. Whatever better will be, I welcome it and am looking for it.
After a terrible back and neck ache last Friday, I started hanging the belt of my scuba suit on an IV pole that I cart with me into each room. I also have been more acutely aware of how critical good posture is with the added weight of the equipment. Yesterday, after bilateral direct sinus augmentations, multiple extractions and ridge augmentation on my brother-in-law at the end of a busy day in the clinic, I was tired mentally and physically. But my neck and back felt much better than last Friday when I spent the day wearing the belt.
The little changes keep making it more comfortable and easier. If I sat for surgery, it seems like it would be even more comfortable. Without trying something, I don’t know what to change. I can’t very well improve what I am doing until I start doing it and pay attention to what seems good and what needs to change. When I give myself permission to shift from thinking and overthinking to doing, I often find the answers show up right in front of my face. And I wouldn’t even have known there were problems if I hadn’t got busy doing.
Maybe this is what everyone is talking about with the “new normal.” After only a few days in the clinic, there is a new rhythm forming. The new normal is what people seem to call it. But it feels a lot like the old normal with just a bit of a twist.
Our course may have been altered recently by this storm, but it has not changed true north. We have all changed. We are more seasoned. We are a tighter unit. But it feels more like the old than I was expecting.
Some of the “new” things may just be things that should have been all along. My hands are getting sore as I have more than doubled the number of times I wash them or use hand sanitizer. Cleaning the door handles throughout the day may have been a good idea all along.
The reality is, not that much has changed in my practice. Not nearly as much as I had envisioned. With how things were progressing in mid-March, it seemed like everyone was going to need hazmat suits just to go outside. Now, with a few noticeable and some unnoticeable changes, we are doing as much surgery as we did before the pandemic struck. It feels like we are still revising all the recent changes daily: clinic flow, check-in from the parking lot via text, doling out masks to patients who didn’t wear their own, constant facility cleaning, changing how we hold the suction to reduce aerosol…
I wonder how important the changes that go unnoticed will prove to be: increased ventilation, plasma ionizers, HEPA filtration. It seems like they are getting a lot of attention and we are all throwing a lot of money at them.