Coming together for the good of our patients

I never thought that at the very beginning of my career I would be facing one of the greatest challenges of my life as a dentist and a human being: a global pandemic. None of us thought we would have to completely adjust every aspect of our lives in order to combat and live through the first pandemic of the modern age. Writing that sentence just seems so unreal. With all our advances in modern technology, medicine, and health care how can a virus ravage the entire planet in this day and age? But rather than dwell on unanswerable questions, we choose to keep pushing forward and come together for the good of our patients, our staff and ourselves.

I am the chief resident at the Mercy Medical Center GPR in Canton and I would like to share with all of you how we have adjusted to treating our patients during this pandemic. As soon as the request to stop all elective procedures came through, the residency jumped into action, not waiting until it was mandated. We knew that it was our responsibility to ensure that dental emergencies would not be clogging up and draining the resources of the Emergency Department at the hospital. We made sure our local dental community knew that if they were not able to treat dental emergencies during this time to encourage their patients to come to the residency to be treated. We wanted to be a beacon and leader of the dental community in Stark County and we achieved that goal.

I am exceptionally proud that every member of Mercy Dental Services Department has stepped up to ensure our patients are not being left without options for treatment and that we are allowing our doctors, nurses and every member of the ED staff to use their resources to treat the patients who need it most. We have put in place strict procedures and protocols to ensure the safety of our patients, staff and ourselves during this time. The ability to provide high quality dentistry is still achievable under these temporary treatment guidelines that have been mandated, and the residency is proof of that. While it can be scary to still be treating patients who may have been exposed to or have this virus, I put those feelings aside and decided it was my duty to accept those risks in order to serve my patients. That is what it means to be a health care provider and I have never been more proud to be a part of this community.

We have also started to collect extra PPE from the dental community to place into a stockpile that can be accessed by the hospital when it is needed in the weeks to come. While we may be doing more didactic than clinical work right now, I am confident that I am getting an exceptional post-graduate education. Mercy Medical Center has embraced the residency program as an essential component to help get through this pandemic and they should be commended for realizing the value of the dental profession as a vital component to overall health and well-being.

On a personal note, while I am proud of the work my residency has been doing to keep our patients healthy and safe, I am nervous about what is going to happen once residency ends in a few months. Two weeks before this hit and our profession was brought to a halt, I was holding a contract for my dream job. Everything I worked for was coming to fruition; the job I had always dreamed of was locked down and it was back in my hometown. The dentists I would be joining are some of the best in the business and the greatest people I know, and I could enjoy my last few months of residency without worrying about a job.

Then a week after dental offices began to close I was informed my job was on hold. It was a devastating message to receive. All I could do was sit at my desk and just stare at the wall for a better part of 30 minutes; I couldn’t speak. As I processed my emotions over the next week or so I began to feel guilty about how I was feeling. Every single person in the country is feeling this way and I felt I was being selfish for being upset that my future was now not clear and set. Everything is unknown at this moment, so it is okay for all of us to feel selfish about whatever is going on in our lives right now.

While I have been assured that my job is not canceled, only on hold/delayed, there is still a sense of dread that I cannot shake. How can it be guaranteed that I will be employed after residency? Unfortunately, that is something I cannot control and I cannot change. I will not know what is going to happen until it happens.

As a dentist, I never thought this particular issue would be something that caused me such great emotional and physical stress. I am sure all of you have this same feeling, but in a way that is unique to you and I am here to tell you that it is OK to have those feelings. Unknowns can be fear inducing, but we must navigate through this together to get through the storm and come out on the other side.

I encourage you all to stay positive and while we must practice physical distancing we need to remain social; use this time to call your friends, family and even your staff to let them know how much they mean to you. This will pass and, while it may take some time, we must be ready to get back to work and band together as a community to ensure that our patients are the number one priority.