How is the COVID-19 Pandemic Affecting Associates?
The COVID-19 pandemic has had devastating effects on many industries including dentistry. This is one perspective in a series of blogs on how the stay-at-home order and the virus is affecting individuals in Denver’s dental community. Do you have a story you would like to share? Email email@example.com.
By: Female, Pediatric Dentist, Associate
For someone who defines a lot of myself in my career as a dentist, I’m still reeling from the announcement that was made when I walked into the office on Monday, March 16. Unusually, most of the staff had congregated in the front desk area along with our practice owner and there was definitely something strange in the air. The office was going to close for the week. We just wouldn’t risk the burden of exposing, being exposed to or sending germs home for even a day longer. I’ve been an associate at this office for a little over two years and it hasn’t closed for any reason in almost 20 years. I realized then that I hadn’t been paying much attention to the news about the virus, but the reality of it hit me immediately. Truth be told, I had a moment of quiet excitement about having an unplanned week off before the severity of the situation sunk in. As a full-time W2 employee in a small private practice, I have health insurance and a retirement plan but otherwise no benefits. I allocate my paycheck to rent, bills, dues, student loan payments and unpaid vacation time. I was furloughed from the office to reduce the workforce. While non-essential procedures were restricted, my employer stayed on to take care of dental emergencies and kept a couple of staff to handle administration and phone calls.
Like most, after all we go through to become a dentist, I would never have believed that I would unintentionally be out of work for 29 days and counting. I thought I might be ok living off of my small savings for a short time. I could have enough for basic necessities when many do not. But, fear of the indefinite persisted and so I decided to file for unemployment. I realize that I don’t have the additional burden of the bigger decisions about employees, applying for business loans, etc., but my concerns are legitimate as well. I know I am not alone in this new reality of the waiting game. During this time my passing thoughts include: Is there anything else I can be doing? Is there any other work I should be seeking to do? Are our patients doing ok while we have to defer treatment? Do families truly understand why much of dental is being considered non-essential? What will the dental environment be like when we can return? Will we be well-equipped and prepared for any new guidelines? I have worried about absolutely everything to no end. I get overwhelmed for the families who have lost loved ones and for all the workers risking their health while facing this unprecedented challenge. I’ve overloaded on the news and the anxiety it creates, and then cut myself off. I have done CE webinars, reached out to friends, family and colleagues from around the country, done Zoom happy hours, game nights and watched a lot of movies. For now, I have to take the suggestions of using the opportunity to reflect, do my part to flatten the curve and to be grateful for the necessity of staying home until dentistry is back.